Jacksonville Democrat pulls off a stunning mayoral upset despite sizable GOP advantage

Jacksonville Democrat pulls off a stunning mayoral upset despite sizable GOP advantage
Donna Deegan in 2009 (Creative Commons)

2022 was not a good year for Democrats in the Sunshine State, where far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis was reelected by 19 percent and Republicans increased their majority in the Florida State Legislature. Democratic strategists and organizers have been sounding the alarm about Florida, warning that in light of how GOP-leaning it has become, President Joe Biden will need to fight extra hard in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and other battleground states in order to be reelected in 2024.

But on Tuesday, May 16, Democrats pulled off a major upset when Donna Deegan defeated Republican Daniel Davis in Jacksonville's mayoral runoff. Deegan will be Jacksonville's first female mayor when she is sworn in on July 1, replacing Republican Lenny Curry — and her victory came on the same day in which Philadelphia Democrats nominated the person will likely become the city's first female mayor: former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker (in light of Democrats' 7-1 registration in Philly, Parker is likely to win the general election in November).

Deegan fought an uphill battle in a city where Republicans have an advantage, yet emerged with 52 percent of the vote. During her victory speech, Deegan stressed that she overcame the odds.

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis mocked after boasting that Florida is 'putting pedophiles to death'

Deegan told supporters, "Everyone said it could not be done in Jacksonville, Florida. We did it because we brought the people inside."

Republicans attacked Deegan for taking part in Black Lives Matter protests and tried to paint her as far-left. And Davis was endorsed by DeSantis.

But in the end, it didn't matter. During her speech, the former news anchor noted the support she received from independent and GOP voters.

Deegan noted, "I can't tell you how many people from across the political spectrum reached out to me and said, 'We want you to know: I've never voted for a Democrat before. I'm going to vote for you.'"

READ MORE: DeSantis critics question his ability to use Florida as a national 'blueprint' in 2024: report

Chris Hand, a political attorney in Florida, told NBC News, "Just when people thought they had Jacksonville figured out, the voters have confounded expectations. Donna Deegan's win is historic, not just because of who she is, but also, because of how she won: by running a positive campaign and building a coalition of Democrats, No Party Affiliation Voters and even some Republicans."

Davis also lost to Deegan on March 21, but the election was close enough to go to a runoff on May 16.

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