Donna Deegan, a former TV news anchor and women’s breast cancer advocate solidly beat the city’s Chamber CEO, Daniel Davis in a stunning upset in the Jacksonville mayoral race. She becomes the first woman ever and only the second Democrat to win a race for mayor in three decades in Jacksonville despite Davis outraising her four-to-one.
Deegan, a Democrat, campaigned pledging to be a changemaker and standing against the political consultant class that surrounded both Davis and current Mayor Lenny Curry. She beat Davis by four points, garnering 52 percent of the vote vs Davis’ 48 percent. Turnout reached about 33 percent of Duval County’s registered voters.
“Love won today,” Deegan told a crowd at her victory party Tuesday night. “I cannot tell you how excited I am to bring this city together and move us forward.”
She continued, “I am so excited about creating a city that sees everybody, that brings everybody in, that gives everybody a voice, a city that truly does finally reach its absolutely amazing potential. … We have the most beautiful mosaic of a city that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. And everybody’s going to have a voice in a Donna Deegan administration.”
Another groundbreaking achievement includes the fact that she will be the city’s second Arab American mayor, following her cousin, Tommy, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1991.
With Councilman Ron Salem expected to serve as the next City Council president, both of Jacksonville’s top two elected officials will be Arab Americans.
Her opponent, Daniel Davis, is a former City Council member and state representative. He had been preparing for this mayoral race for the last eight years ever since fellow Republican Lenny Curry was elected mayor. He raised a record-shattering $8.4 million by the end of April while Deegan raised about $2.1 million.
After being known as a “moderate” throughout his political career, this race saw him take a turn to the far right where he was rewarded with an endorsement by Governor Ron DeSantis. On top of that, he had several other top state Republicans stump for him on the campaign trail.
Davis made false claims about Deegan, claiming, among other things, that she would “defund the police” and make Jacksonville more like places like New York City and San Francisco. Perhaps voters saw through such fear-mongering and realized that Jacksonville’s murder rate is three times higher than both of those cities.
The issue of book banning and DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, of which the local Duval school district has been at the center of, also played a part in the race. Davis campaigned with the local chapter of “Moms For Liberty,” a conservative group that has challenged how schools teach race and sexuality. He signed the group’s pledge and vowed to give the group his “full support” if elected.
The breakdown of the vote would suggest that independent and Republican voters are rejecting DeSantis’s heavy handed, and some would say “hate filled” legislation. About 7,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted in the election, Deegan won the race with about 9,000 more votes, indicating she won a combination of independent voters and Republicans.
One of Deegan’s first and most important tasks when she becomes the new mayor will be to appoint a general counsel who can issue binding opinions over many levels of government, including the Duval County school district and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Her campaign prominently featured bipartisan endorsements, including from Republican City Councilmembers Matt Carlucci and Randy DeFoor. Carlucci even went further and donated $65,000 from his political committee to Deegan’s campaign.
Deegan told The Florida Times-Union she hopes her election means local politics might become less “fear-filled”.
“To me, it’s the fact that not only I get to make history as the first female mayor” — she told the Times-Union after her victory was secure, “but that I get to turn the page on what has really been a very fear-filled time is something that I just can’t even tell you how grateful I am.”
Jacksonville, the 12th most populous city in the U.S., and was the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor, and under the city’s consolidated government, Jacksonville’s mayor has extraordinary power that surpasses many other cities’ mayors.
Check out her victory speech below …