Dems score biggest Florida win in over a decade- Donna Deegan flips Jacksonville: what it means historically

Donna Deegan’s win for Jacksonville Mayor is hands down in my opinion the single biggest Democratic win in the state since 2012. And for me personally, it’s wonderful because Deegan is someone I’ve liked for years and is quite frankly royalty to me in Jacksonville, given she is the cousin of the late great Tommy Hazouri, one of few elected officials in this state I can say that I actually revered.

I am on record saying that I believe the Jacksonville Mayor’s race is generally the most important election that’s not state wide in Florida. I know there are much bigger jurisdictions in Florida that elect county wide officials (Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Palm Beach counties) but it’s always the timing of this election and the potential closeness of it- March and May of the out year in a city that has generally had equal numbers of Dem and GOP learning voters since 2000 that set the tone for the rest of the cycle. 

In 2003, many of us were convinced the runoff election pitting Nat Glover against John Peyton would begin a statewide Democratic turnaround after the 2002 wipe out. Heck, the leadership of the FDP went all-in on the race. Many activists and party officials, myself included spent time in Duval rolling up our sleeves and working. Glover lost and the next year was a GOP wave in Florida. Then came 2011. I was out of politics at the time, but the victory by Alvin Brown energized me to where I wanted to get involved again. Brown’s win set up 2012, the best Democratic year in Florida of the last quarter century.

And when the same Alvin Brown snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Lenny Curry in 2015, it was an ominous sign and in hindsight the trigger on the Democrats collapse in Florida (2014, a national GOP wave year was arguably less bad in Florida than elsewhere).

After eight years of Curry’s leadership, Jacksonville needed a clean out badly. As we discussed in our site’s endorsement of Deegan, the GOP has completely mismanaged the city of late, and as a result crime is on the rise (Jacksonville is one of the most dangerous cities in the country), infrastructure is crumbling and local government is being increasingly conducted in the dark. Elected officials want to sellout local utility while stuffing every city board with unqualified cronies. So beyond the partisan element, Deegan’s win was needed to save the largest city in the country with a GOP Mayor from complete ruin (why Democrats haven’t made more of a national issue of Jacksonville, the way GOPers do about Chicago, etc, I don’t know?!).

As much as I’d love to say Deegan’s win is a sign of growing unpopularity for Governor Ron DeSantis, It isn’t, in my opinion. Now DeSantis holds a grudge like nobody else, so he did withhold his time and effort from helping some GOP council members and helped divide the local party further. But beyond that, the local GOP in Duval has become increasingly corrupt and have governed as noted above with total arrogance & malfeasance. This reckoning was coming for them, in a city that’s so evenly divided. And it’s a reflection local issues still matter in local races. As does candidate quality.

Donna Deegan is an absolutely elite candidate by Dem standards in Florida. She was likable as a news personality and adept at building a political movement locally, despite never having held public office previously. Her Congressional loss a few cycles ago was a high-water mark for Democrats in that district, believe it or not, as she over-performed against Congressman Rutherford (who is one of wackiest members of the really extreme Florida delegation).

Her victory in this race should be a wake up call to Democrats, that running local celebrities with crossover appeal instead of career politicians isn’t beneath the party – it’s a way to be competitive and win things for a change.

Joyce Morgan’s surprising win for Property Appraiser also speaks to candidate quality and likability. Duval Democrats seem to be pointing the way forward for the state and if history is any guide this could be the start of a swing back to the middle for the state.


  1. […] in Florida. As Kartik Krishnaiyer said in The Florida Squeeze, this win for the Democrats is the most significant win in decades. Granted, it’s only the most significant due to Democrats’ lackluster performance over the last […]


  2. […] Florida. As Kartik Krishnaiyer mentioned in The Florida Squeeze, this win for the Democrats is the most significant win in decades. Granted, it’s solely probably the most vital as a consequence of Democrats’ lackluster […]


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