Democrat Donna Deegan pulled a major upset on Tuesday, defeating her GOP rival in the runoff mayoral election in Jacksonville, Florida.
Deegan secured 52% of the vote, according to The Associated Press, prevailing over Daniel Davis, who was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and making history as the first woman elected to the post.
Deegan will succeed outgoing Republican Lenny Curry, who had to step down due to term limits.
“Everybody said it could not be done in Jacksonville, Florida,” Deegan said following her victory. “We did it because we brought the people inside.”
Her win was celebrated by party leaders, including Nikki Fried, the Florida Democratic Party chair.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) May 16, 2023
The contest went to a runoff race after no candidate secured 50% of the vote in the first round. Deegan came out ahead, but with only 39.4% of the vote.
In an interview following Tuesday’s victory, Deegan expressed disappointment at the low turnout.
“We’re going to bring the people into the process and make them feel like they’re a part of it, because they are, and I think that’s going to make all the difference in the world,” she told First Coast News.
Deegan, a former local TV news anchor, founded a nonprofit called the DONNA Foundation to support cancer patients and survivors after her own bout with the disease. She is a three-time breast cancer survivor.
Davis had sought to portray Deegan as radical, airing an attack ad focused on her attendance at Black Lives Matter rallies following the death of George Floyd and claiming she wanted to defund the police.
Deegan struck back, telling News4JAX that the ad was “racially insensitive.” She noted that outgoing GOP Mayor Curry, the city’s then-Sheriff Mike Williams and current Sheriff T.K. Waters also joined a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.
She insisted she is “very pro-police.”
“I believe that we need to make sure we are taking care of our police officers and I want to make sure we are taking care of our community,” Deegan told the outlet.
DeSantis endorsed Davis, head of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, as “the proven law and order conservative Jacksonville needs to tackle the city’s greatest challenges and seize its biggest opportunities.”
In November’s midterm election, DeSantis won Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, by 12 percentage points, a smaller margin than his 20-point statewide triumph over Democrat Charlie Crist.
In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win Duval County since 1976.
Donna Deegan holds up a T-shirt her daughter bought for her on a trip to London, while speaking with supporters in her run for mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., on May 16, 2023. Deegan defeated Republican Daniel Davis, becoming the first female to be elected as the city's mayor.