- Democrat Donna Deegan achieves a stunning upset in the Jacksonville mayoral race, becoming the city’s first female mayor, boosting morale for Florida Democrats after their disappointing 2022 midterm performance.
- Deegan’s grassroots campaign and message of unity resonated with voters, securing her a 52% to 48% victory over Republican Daniel Davis, despite his financial advantage and Governor Ron DeSantis’ endorsement.
- The historic election marks a turning point for Jacksonville, previously led by a Republican mayor, and provides a much-needed morale boost for Democrats in the state, signaling the potential to overcome Republican advantages and a wake-up call for the GOP.
In a stunning upset that has upended the political landscape of Florida, Democrat Donna Deegan claimed victory in the Jacksonville mayoral race, becoming the city’s first female mayor. The election results were a surprising reprieve for Florida Democrats after their disheartening performance in the 2022 midterms.
Deegan, a former television anchor with significant name recognition and a activist in the fight against breast cancer, faced off against Republican Daniel Davis. Despite Davis’s formidable campaign war chest and endorsement by Governor Ron DeSantis, Deegan’s grassroots campaign resonated with voters across Jacksonville’s 186 precincts, securing her a 52% to 48% advantage.
The victory announcement was greeted with cheers and tears of joy from Democrats.
“Everyone said it could not be done in Jacksonville, Florida,” Deegan said in her victory speech, surrounded by jubilant supporters. “We did it because we brought the people inside.”
Acknowledging the historic election, the city of Jacksonville’s official Twitter account congratulated Deegan, expressing anticipation for her leadership and vision. Davis, in his concession speech, called on the city to unite and move forward, setting a tone of reconciliation after an intense campaign.
Deegan’s win marks a significant turning point for Jacksonville, the most populous city in the country previously led by a Republican mayor. The victory, against a backdrop of steep Democratic losses in the state, provides a much-needed morale boost for the party. In the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans dominated the state, with DeSantis capturing Duval County by a significant margin.
Deegan claimed after the race that her campaign strategy focused on building unity:
“Love won tonight, and we made history. We have a new day in Jacksonville because people chose unity over division—creating a broad coalition of people across the political spectrum that want a unified city,” she posted on Twitter.
The victory also notches a much-needed win for the new state Democratic Chair, Nikki Fried, who took on the daunting task of rebuilding the party in Florida, the country’s largest swing state.
“For too long, Jacksonville has been led by Republicans who are hellbent on taking away our rights, and it’s past time that the city is led by leaders with new, fresh ideas who have a plan for Jacksonville,” Fried said.
Despite the jubilation, Democrats have an uphill battle heading into the 2024 election cycle. Republican registered voters still outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 400,000. However, Deegan’s win shows that it’s still possible for Democrats to overcome built in Republican advantages, and is a wake-up call for Republicans not to take the state for granted.