Democrats in Florida have flipped the mayorship of Jacksonville, one of the largest Republican-run cities in the nation.
Donna Deegan, a former television anchor and the founder of a nonprofit that aids women with breast cancer, won her election on May 16. She defeated Republican Daniel Davis after securing 52% of the vote.
“Love won tonight,” said Deegan on Twitter after the results were in. “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.”
“Together, we will 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,” she continued. “We will break down the wall between City Hall and bring all the people in to create a city that works for everyone.”
Davis, a former legislator and CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce, was endorsed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The competitive race was considered too close to call prior to Election Day. Just over 19% of Duval County voters had cast their ballots as of May 15, with Democrats leading Republicans by roughly 6,000 votes.
“I love my city. I will never stop loving my city. I’m going to serve my city until the day I die,” he said in his concession speech. “It’s just not gonna be in the form I thought it would be 24 hours ago. And that’s OK. … This is not the outcome we hoped for.”
“Jacksonville’s best days are ahead. … Whatever our mayor wants I’m going to pledge to help and do whatever she asks,” he continued. “I’m asking you in this room and everybody out in the community to do that as well. We have to support our new mayor to make sure Jacksonville can be what it can be.”
Davis is the second DeSantis-endorsed candidate who lost their race. DeSantis also endorsed former U.N. ambassador Kelly Craft in Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary. Craft then lost to Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who had been endorsed by President Donald Trump.
Deegan’s success as a Democrat is being heralded by some news outlets as evidence that Florida’s shift from a swing state to a Republican stronghold is subsiding.
“Deegan’s victory gives Florida Democrats a psychological boost just months after the November 2022 elections in which DeSantis won his re-election victory by nearly 20 points, and Republicans crushed Democrats across the state. Democrats all over Florida erupted with glee on social media over Deegan’s win,” reports Politico.
Newsweek wrote that Deegan’s win is a “major blow to DeSantis” that “undermines claims” that Florida is “ruby-red.”
Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida, both because of its geographic footprint and its population. The city encompasses 747 square miles and has just over 960,000 residents.
Deegan will succeed current Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, who first took office in July of 2015 and could not seek reelection due to term limits.