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Deegan beat former state Rep. Daniel Davis, who had been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Deegan says she will work to improve the economy, provide better healthcare and fix the infrastructure.

Democrat Donna Deegan made history Tuesday night when she became the first-ever woman elected as Jacksonville mayor and only the second Democrat to hold the position in the past three decades.

In a surprising upset, the former TV anchor scored a 52% to 48% advantage over Republican former state Rep. Daniel Davis, who was endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and outraised Deegan by a four-to-one-margin during his campaign.

None of that was enough, and Deegan will now lead a city that Republicans have controlled for 26 of the past 30 years, and what was previously the most populous city in the country led by a GOP mayor.

Her victory comes six months after state Democrats were bested in the 2022 midterm elections and considered left for dead by the national party. To some, Deegan’s unexpected win marks the beginning of a potential turnaround for Democrats ahead of the 2024 election cycle.

Could Florida’s Red Tide Turn Blue? 

Deegan came into Election Day as the decided underdog against Davis, who blasted the Democratic contender over her participation in Black Lives Matter protests. 

RELATED: Floridians Are Paying the High Legal Cost of DeSantis’ Culture Wars

Deegan steered clear of division and culture wars, however, instead billing herself as a candidate who would help transform a city government long dominated by conservative Republicans. Some Democrats have argued that the state Republican party and the DeSantis administration may have gone too far during this year’s legislative term, which has seen them ban abortion in Florida after six weeks, target the LGBTQ community, continue their legislative attacks on teachers, and pass a range of other laws that may have turned off voters in the process.  

“These culture wars are taking the focus away from the issues plaguing working Floridians, from skyrocketing rent prices to the growing property insurance crisis, and lax gun laws,” Nikki Fried, the Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party told Floricua.   

“It’s past time that the city is led by leaders with new, fresh ideas who have a plan for Jacksonville,” added Fried, who made the Jacksonville race a top priority.

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis Has Claimed an Executive Right to Keep Key Government Records Secret

Deegan says her first order of business will be focusing on transparency. “There has been really a transparency issue at City Hall.” Her plan to “let the sun shine in” includes expanding various city governing boards, such as the Planning Commission, to ensure diversity by “bringing in different viewpoints from what we have now and change the way we do business.”

“Love Won Tonight”

To some observers, Deegan’s success can be attributed to two factors: running a positive campaign and building a coalition of Democrats, No Party Affiliation Voters and even some Republicans. The data backs this up, showing that Deegan won independents and a significant percentage of crossover Republican voters.

“I made a decision when I got into this race that no matter what happened […] we were going to lead with love over fear, we would not go with division, we would go with unity,” the newly elected mayor said as she celebrated her victory. “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. Love won tonight, and we made history.” 

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