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Florida Democrats pursue NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Grant Hill for Senate race


MIami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) and Phoenix Suns Grant Hill (33)during NBA basketball action in Miami, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. The Phoenix Suns defeated the Miami 104-96. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

The Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill (right) defends against the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade during an NBA game in Miami on Nov. 3, 2009.

As they seek a challenger to take on Republican Sen. Rick Scott next year, some Florida Democrats are reportedly hoping that a former NBA superstar will lace up his high-tops and check in at the scorer’s table. According to a new story from NBC, some major donors are trying to woo Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade while others are pursuing Hall of Famer Grant Hill, who spent seven years with the Orlando Magic.

Wade, who played 15 of his 17 seasons in Miami and won three championships—one alongside Shaquille O’Neal and two with LeBron James—would likely be the bigger name. In 2021, two years after his retirement, the NBA named him one of the top 75 players in league history, and he, too, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

But just last month, Wade, a part-owner of the Utah Jazz, explained that he’d left the state on account of anti-trans legislation Republican lawmakers have recently passed, saying that “my family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there.” (Wade’s teenage daughter is trans and his family lives in Los Angeles.)

Hill was a seven-time All-Star during his 18-year career, which came to a close in 2013; he last played for the Magic during the 2006-2007 season and has for years lived in the Orlando area. Since his playing days, he’s worked as a basketball analyst and became a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks in 2015.

He’s also long had an interest in politics: He interned for another NBA icon, Bill Bradley, when Bradley represented New Jersey in the Senate and graduated from Duke with a degree in history and political science. In an interview following his retirement, Hill said, “I really like the world of politics, and I look forward to just participating more than I have in the last 20 years.” He’s often supported Democratic candidates and once shot hoops with Barack Obama on the former president’s birthday.

But as is usually the case when celebrities are courted for political office, neither man has publicly said a word about the possibility of running, and a campaign by either is unlikely. As NBC notes, the recruitment efforts “have not been driven by either the state or national parties” but rather by wealthy donors and political operatives acting on their own.

Much more probable is a bid by an established Democratic politician. Several names have circulated so far, but NBC adds one fresh possibility: Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, who hasn’t spoken about her interest but was vetted by Charlie Crist as a possible running mate during his unsuccessful campaign for governor last year. In addition, state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who’d previously been mentioned, has now indicated he’s thinking about the race, saying he’ll “evaluate how I can best serve Floridians, whether that be in the Florida Senate or elsewhere” in the “coming months.”

Two final updates concern a pair of former U.S. House members, Stephanie Murphy and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Murphy, who did not seek reelection last cycle, previously declined to rule out a bid in December. While her stance hasn’t changed, it’s notable that she still hasn’t foreclosed a run in new comments to NBC, since we hadn’t otherwise heard from her since last year.

Mucarsel-Powell, who lost reelection in 2020 to Republican Carlos Giménez, by contrast first surfaced as a possibility last month when Inside Elections reported she was weighing a run. She confirms to NBC that she has “a lot to consider,” but said she was currently focused on her work with the gun safety organization Giffords.

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