Donna Deegan’s victory in Jacksonville’s mayoral race Tuesday night gave Democrats a morale boost following an underwhelming midterm election for the state party.
Deegan, a Democratic former television news anchor, prevailed in the hotly contested election, defeating Republican candidate Daniel Davis by roughly four percentage points, according to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections. Her victory was celebrated by Florida Democrats at a tumultuous time for the party, which lost statewide elections in November and has faced legislative defeats as Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a flurry of conservative bills in recent months.
Her victory means Democrats flipped the mayor’s office in Florida’s most populous city, which has historically leaned conservative, resulting in a major victory for the party. She will be the second Democrat to hold the seat since the 1990s. Several Democrats took to Twitter to celebrate the victory.
Newsweek has reached out via email to the Florida Democratic Party for comment.
“The @FlaDems are back,” tweeted Nikki Fried, former Florida agricultural commissioner and current chair of the state party. “Jacksonville Mayor-Elect @DonnaDeegan and @DuvalDEC just flipped #DUUUVAL blue!!”
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg tweeted: “So amazing, @DonnaDeegan with a huge win in the heart of DeSantis country! Dems just keep winning, grabbing more political real estate. Thanks to everyone who supported Donna and worked to make this happen – big win tonight!”
So amazing, @DonnaDeegan with a huge win in the heart of DeSantis country!
Dems just keep winning, grabbing more political real estate.
Thanks to everyone who supported Donna and worked to make this happen – big win tonight! https://t.co/s6CWSWmeGG
— Simon Rosenberg (@SimonWDC) May 16, 2023
Representative Maxwell Frost, who represents Orlando in the U.S. House of Representatives, described her victory as a “HUGE win for Florida.”
Huge congrats to @DonnaDeegan for becoming the next Mayor of Jacksonville! HUGE win for Florida.
— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) May 16, 2023
Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, painted Deegan’s victory as a rejection of DeSantis’ leadership. Davis, her opponent, was endorsed by the governor.
“Tonight, the voters of Jacksonville, Florida, showed the nation that banning books and trying to erase the history of the black and LGBTQ communities won’t work for Ron DeSantis. Congratulations to the first female mayor of Jacksonville, Donna Deegan,” he tweeted.
Tonight, the voters of Jacksonville, Florida, showed the nation that banning books and trying to erase the history of the black and LGBTQ communities won’t work for Ron DeSantis.
Congratulations to the first female mayor of Jacksonville, Donna Deegan.
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) May 17, 2023
Florida Democrats have previously faced criticism after the midterms, which saw Republicans sail to victory in key races, despite Florida long being viewed as a critical swing state. DeSantis won reelection by more than 19 points and GOP Senator Marco Rubio won by 16. Democrats were also held to single-digit victories in a number of House races that are also typically viewed as safely Democratic.
Former President Donald Trump also won Florida, previously a bellwether state, in 2020, as Hispanic voters in South Florida shifted toward Republicans—another recent blow to Democrats.
Jacksonville, prior to Deegan’s victory, was the most populous city in the United States to have a Republican mayor. That distinction will now be held by Fort Worth, Texas.
Deegan’s campaign focused on health care, the economy and infrastructure. In a tweet released after her win, she pledged to “bring change for good to Jacksonville by making good on the decades-long broken promises on infrastructure, building an economy that works for everyone and improving access to healthcare.”
“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 wrote.
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