Democrat Donna Deegan won the Jacksonville mayoral race Tuesday night, giving Florida Democrats a big boost less than six months after losing the 2022 midterms and being considered dead by the national party.
Deegan came into Election Day running against Republican Daniel Davis, the city’s Chamber of Commerce president and a significant fundraising advantage. He was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but that support was lukewarm. DeSantis didn’t run events with Davis or put his political muscle behind his candidacy.
With all of the city’s 186 precincts reporting, Deegan held a 52% to 48% advantage over Davis, who is running to replace incumbent Republican Mayor Lenny Curry.
“Everybody said we couldn’t do this in Jacksonville, Florida,” Deegan said in a video of his victory speech. “We did it because we brought people in.”
City of Jacksonville Official Twitter account He sent out a tweet Tuesday night congratulating Deacon, writing, “We look forward to your leadership and vision to help guide our city into the future.”
His Offer speechDavis called on everyone to “unite now and move our city forward,” according to Florida Politics.
Deegan is a former TV anchor in the city with significant name recognition. After she left TV, she founded a nonprofit group focused on breast cancer research. She is the city’s first female mayor.
The victory in Jacksonville, the nation’s most populous city with a Republican mayor, is a big boost to Florida Democrats who have suffered a series of heavy losses in recent years. Most recently, in the 2022 midterm election cycle, when DeSantis won re-election by nearly 20 percentage points, they were beaten up and down the ballot. He also carried Duval County, which includes most of downtown Jacksonville, by 12 percentage points.
“When people thought they had Jacksonville figured out, voters confounded expectations,” said Chris Hand, a government law attorney who served as chief of staff to former Jacksonville Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown. “Donna Deacon’s victory is historic, not just because of who she is, but because of how she won: by running a positive campaign and building a coalition of Democrats, nonpartisan voters, and some Republicans.”
Duval County’s political trajectory has been a roller coaster in recent election cycles.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum won in 2018, losing the election to DeSantis as Republican voters moved from the city to heavily Republican-leaning commuter districts. Two years later, Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the county since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
However, last year, DeSantis and Republicans dominated the county, as did the rest of the state. Duval was named one of seven bellwether counties as part of NBC News’ “County to County” program as a result of the swing nature of its politics.
A primary-cycle win would no doubt be a significant start to the 2024 election cycle for Democrats, but the party will still face strategic handicaps as it tries to regain its footing in a state where its recent political history has been defined by heavy losses. Specifically, Republican registered voters now outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 400,000.
Still, the win is a shot of inspiration and a big one to kick off the tenure of new state Democratic Party Chairman Nikki Fried. Long known as the biggest swing state in the country.
“For too long, Jacksonville has been led by Republicans who are reluctant to take away our rights, and it’s past time for the city to be led by leaders with fresh, new ideas who have a plan for Jacksonville,” Fried said.