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Donna Deegan celebrates with supporters at Estrella Cocina after winning the Jacksonville mayoral election Tuesday, May 16, 2023. | Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville Today

Donna Deegan tops Daniel Davis for Jacksonville mayor

Published on May 16, 2023 at 7:52 pm

Democrat Donna Deegan, a candidate who promised a new era of openness for Jacksonville, will be the city’s next mayor.

Deegan, a charity founder and former TV anchor, topped Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis, a Republican endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, 52% to 48%, in the election Tuesday.

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Deegan, who will be the city’s first female mayor, is also only the second Democrat elected mayor in Jacksonville in the past three decades. She framed herself as a voice of opposition who will clean up what she asserts is a widely viewed culture of corruption in city government and bring in those who have historically been “left behind” when it comes to economic development. Her priorities are infrastructure, public health and small business.

Deegan said the city must fix septic tanks, drainage and other infrastructure — and “keep the broken promises that we have been making to our neighborhoods in this city for 55 years.”

She agreed with the Republican Davis that the city’s crime rate is “shameful,” but she said she wants to go beyond adding police on the streets to address underlying problems — something Davis also mentioned.

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Donna Deegan celebrates with Duval County School Board member Warren Jones on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Davis, a former City Council member and state lawmaker, said he’d be a strong partner to Sheriff T.K. Waters, who endorsed him, and he highlighted his experience attracting business to town through the Chamber. He listed his priorities as crime and infrastructure. He branded Deegan as someone who was inexperienced, soft on crime and far too liberal to lead the city.

Crime is the No. 1 issue in Jacksonville, Davis said. He vowed to put 200 more police officers on the streets in four years.

He also made Downtown revitalization a theme, saying repeatedly that Downtown needs “more rooftops.” Downtown will prosper with more workforce housing that leads to more retail and restaurants, he said.

The two candidates differed sharply on the issue of Confederate monuments. Deegan said she would emulate current Mayor Lenny Curry and allocate city money to remove the Women of the Confederacy monument from Springfield Park; Davis said he would not.

About 33% of registered voters cast ballots. Republicans outvoted Democrats by 98,592 to 91,386, but voters with no party affiliation totaled 25,106.

Results from the Duval County Elections Office showed Deegan running strongest in the central city as well as parts of the northwest and south. Davis took precincts on the far west side, the east and sections of the southern city.

Donna Deegan celebrates winning the Jacksonville mayoral election on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Surrounded by supporters cheering “Yes we did, Yes we did” at a Downtown restaurant Tuesday night, Deegan said her campaign made history; “love won today.”

Seconds after her victory speech, Deegan told Jacksonville Today she felt “absolutely incredible.”

“I felt like we had such a coalition of voters across the political spectrum, and I was praying that was how we would win this race,” she said. “I really wanted to bring everyone in, and I am so grateful for the voters of Jacksonville who have come out and said, ‘We want unity,’ and that means everything to me.”

Deegan issued a statement later in the night proclaiming “a new day in Jacksonville.”

“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 health care,” she said. “We will break down the wall between City Hall and bring all the people in to create a city that works for everyone.”

State Sen. Tracie Davis, left, congratulates Donna Deegan at a victory celebration on May 16, 2023. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

The Florida Democratic Party called Deegan’s win a “massive victory.”

“For too long, Jacksonville has been led by Republicans who are hell bent 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,” party Chair Nikki Fried said in a statement. “It’s a new day for Jacksonville and a new day for Florida Democrats.”

In other races, Democrat Joyce Morgan held a slight lead — 51% to 49% — over Republican Jason Fischer for Duval County property appraiser.

In City Council races:

City Council At-Large – Group 5

Charles Garrison (D) — 48%

Chris Miller (R) — 52%

City Council District 2

Lindsey Brock (R) — 48%

Mike Gay (R) — 52%

City Council District 7

Joseph Hogan (R) — 35%

Jimmy Peluso (D) — 65%

City Council District 8

Reggie Gaffney Jr. (D) — 52%

Tameka Gaines Holly (D) — 48%

City Council District 9

Tyrona Clark-Murray (D) — 55%

Mike Muldoon (R) — 45%

City Council District 11

Raul Arias (R) — 53%

Ramon Day (D) — 47%

City Council District 14

John Draper (R) — 47%

Rahman Johnson (D) — 53%

Jacksonville Beach voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to raise allowable buildings heights by 20 feet, to 55 feet, at Latham Plaza Parking Lot. Eighty-two percent of voters said no.

A developer requested the change for retail, restaurants and a parking garage.

Reporters Will Brown, Claire Heddles and Dan Scanlan contributed to this report.


author image Senior News Editor

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Senior News Editor

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 


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