Donna Deegan, Daniel Davis advance to Jacksonville mayoral runoff election

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The wide-open race for Jacksonville's next mayor dropped to two candidates Tuesday night, sending Democrat Donna Deegan and Republican Daniel Davis to the general election in May.

With all precincts reporting, Deegan captured 39.4% of the vote, making her the first woman to make it to a Jacksonville mayoral runoff. Davis came in next with 24.7%.

Since no one cleared 50%, the top two finishers move on to the May general election to decide who takes office as mayor on July 1.

"I am beyond thrilled tonight to say that we are moving on," Deegan told supporters at her election night gathering. "We are moving on as the heavy front-runner into round two."

"We can celebrate tonight, but it's just tonight," Davis told his cheering supporters. "Tomorrow, the work continues because, like you, I believe Jacksonville is worth fighting for."

Nate Monroe's instant analysis: Deegan must overcome deep pockets, cynicism to become mayor

Results:Election 2023: See results from Jacksonville, Duval County voting

What races were on the ballot:Election 2023: Your voter guide to Jacksonville's mayoral and City Council races

At around 25.6%, voter turnout overall was about 1-point higher than in the 2019 Duval first election, which did not have a Democrat mayoral candidate, but still lower than the first elections in 2015 and 2011.

The particularly contentious election featured a slew of negative attack advertisements from Republicans and a surprising lack of confrontation among Democrats. Still, candidates spent millions – and are expected to spend more in the coming months.

Davis had more money than any other candidate in the race, followed by fellow Republican LeAnna Cumber. City Council member Cumber earned about 7.6% of the vote. Both widely outspent Deegan.

Fellow Republican City Council member Al Ferraro finished at 16.2%, good for a third-place finish as he outperformed public polls done a few weeks ago with a strong close.

Audrey Gibson, the only other Democrat in the race and former state senator, finished at 8.6% for fourth place.

Republican Frank Keasler earned 2.4% and non-party affiliated candidate Omega Allen earned less than 1 %.

Deegan hopes for stronger voter turnout ahead of general election

Democratic Jacksonville mayoral candidate Donna Deegan does one-on-one interviews with the media after election results showed her with a significant lead over Republican competition Daniel Davis during  Deegan's election night party at Estrella Cocina in downtown Jacksonville Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
Democratic Jacksonville mayoral candidate Donna Deegan does one-on-one interviews with the media after election results showed her with a significant lead over Republican competition Daniel Davis during Deegan's election night party at Estrella Cocina in downtown Jacksonville Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

As the first woman to make it to a Jacksonville mayoral runoff election,  Deegan said her love for the city and investment into it brought voters to her corner. Running on a campaign of positivity and “change for good” would not alter going forward.

Ahead of the May election, she said she will continue to work on a grassroots campaign and pull voters still “sitting on the sidelines” into the race.

“I think it'll be a lot better once we have just the two of us that are, that are [sic] facing off, and we'll be able to focus more energy that way,” Deegan told the Times-Union.

Part of Deegan’s approach to the campaign – to the contrary of Davis’ – has included attending the majority of forums and debates. Now that she and Davis are left, she said she hopes Davis attends more events in order to make sure “people can really hear [them] side-by-side.”

Deegan said she would not engage in attack advertisements or “run those grainy black and white ads calling [her] opponent crazy things” moving forward, but she would call out lies if she heard them.

“The only way we move forward as a community is in togetherness,” Deegan said. “That's how we do it. It's got to be unity, and the only way to have that is to not use fear as a tactic. So it would be a complete contradiction of me as a human being if I started to use fear at this point. Now, will I speak truth to power? I certainly will.”

Deegan said she had not yet heard if Gibson, her Democratic challenger, or any of the other candidates would offer her their endorsement.

If elected in May, Deegan said she had four main priorities for day one. First, she wanted to “throw open the blinds and bring the sunshine in” in an act of mayoral transparency.

Then, she would focus on three primary pillars: promoting infrastructure, access to healthcare and an inclusive economy. Through the goals, other important city needs such as becoming a safer city by lowering the crime rate would also be addressed, she said.

“My campaign, we've called it ‘change for good, change for the better and change that lasts,’ and I believe if we do the right things…that we can move this city to a place where it works for all of us,” Deegan said.

Davis says voters face "clear choice" in May runoff

Davis said his campaign knocked on 9,000 doors last week and went to a total of more than 70,000 doors for face to face talks with voters. “That’s real voters at their doors every day, hearing what they believe Jacksonville should be in the future,” Davis said.

He said Jacksonville has a “clear choice to make” in the run-off election.

“Will we elect a mayor who will stand with our brave men and women in uniform to make Jacksonville safer?” Davis said. “Will we as Jacksonvillians go down the pathway of San Francisco and New York? Will we elect a mayor who will stand with Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep Florida free? Will we embrace the policies of the left that punish hard-working taxpayers?”

He said his “number one” priority will be public safety. He said the city will "put more cops on the street to make sure they have the resources they need to keep your neighborhood safe."

David complimented Ferraro’s campaign for “stepping into the arena, elevating the conversation and offering so much for the conservative cause in Jacksonville.” He did not mention Cumber.

Talking to reporters after his speech, Davis said his references to San Francisco and New York illustrate the choice before voters.

“You can either choose a liberal mindset or a conservative mindset to make Jacksonville a better place, to make government smaller and get more funding on the street for police officers, for firefighters and for infrastructure,” Davis said. “That’s the choice of Daniel Davis.”

Deegan said at a March 8 mayoral date at Jacksonville University that she is “all for adding additional officers.”

“Of course she’s going to say exactly what I’m saying," Davis said, "because she knows that’s what the citizens want. They want safer streets, so why wouldn’t she copy what I’m saying?”

He said his experience the past 10 years as CEO of JAX Chamber will help the city attract the “best companies” companies and “best talent."

Sheriff T.K. Waters, who endorsed Davis and did political ads with him, introduced Davis to the crowd. Davis said that with "what we’ve gone through the past two months, there’s no way I would be standing here at this podium if it weren’t for T.K. Waters."

Mayor Lenny Curry, who cannot run again because of term limits, was among those at Davis’s election night watch.

“I’ve spent almost eight years of my life and my family’s life trying to make Jacksonville better, and I think Daniel is the right guy,” Curry said after Davis’s speech. “He’ll have his own views and his own policies, but I think he’s the right guy and I’m all in with him.”

He said the next two months will be a political battle.

“Look, round two is going to be a fight − a big political fight − but I’m confident his vision is going to resonate with the voters of Jacksonville,” Curry said.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Democrat Deegan, Republican Davis advance to mayoral runoff election