TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s path to the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida became clearer Wednesday when her main primary opponent dropped out of the race to seek a U.S. House seat.
Phil Ehr, a retired Navy commander who left the Republican Party in 2017, appeared with Mucarsel-Powell in Miami to announce he will drop out of the Senate primary and instead challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, a move embraced by the state Democratic Party.
Mucarsel-Powell served one term in Congress before losing to Gimenez in 2020.
So far, the Senate race has been overshadowed by the attention focused on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign for president, similar to 2022, when Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings failed bid to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took a backseat to DeSantis’ reelection.
Ehr has twice tried to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in one of the state’s most conservative districts, an area includes Pensacola and much of the state’s Panhandle. He lost the 2018 Democratic primary. Ehr earned the nomination in 2020 and then lost to Gaetz by more than 30 points.
Gimenez’ Miami-area district is more evenly divided politically and has switched back and forth between parties several times in recent elections. Ehr said he is looking for a new home in the district.
“I’m running in the 28th district because that’s where the need is,” Ehr said in a phone interview with the The Associated Press. “Our country is in trouble, there’s chaos in the House and the incumbent is part of it.”