Former journalist Donna Deegan will become the first female mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, CNN projects, as Democrats win the office in the state’s most populous city for only the second time in 30 years.
Deegan is projected to defeat Republican former state Rep. Daniel Davis in Tuesday’s runoff election to succeed term-limited GOP incumbent Lenny Curry. Jacksonville is currently the biggest city in the country led by a Republican mayor.
Deegan and Davis had advanced to the runoff after no candidate took more than 50% of the vote in the first round in March. Deegan took 39% of the vote to 25% for Davis, though Republicans combined for a slight majority of the overall vote in the March race.
Leading up to the runoff, an ad by the county GOP took aim at Deegan, a longtime news anchor in Jacksonville, for saying she had attended Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020. The spot, which was approved by Davis, also suggested that Deegan wanted to defund the police.
In response, Deegan accused Republicans of using the “same old playbook.”
“I believe that two things can be true,” she said in a video released on Twitter. “While I do believe police have a very dangerous job, and I believe that we need more officers on the streets and will fund those, I also believe that Black mamas shouldn’t have to worry every time their kids step out of the house.”
Deegan campaigned on improving city infrastructure, increased access to health care and for a more inclusive economy, while portraying herself as someone who could bring change. Davis focused on a tough-on-crime messaging, while also emphasizing his support for boosting the city economy and infrastructure.
Davis had the support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who endorsed him in March as “the proven law and order conservative Jacksonville needs to tackle the city’s greatest challenges and seize its biggest opportunities.”
While Republicans have long had the edge in Duval County, home to Jacksonville, the area has grown more competitive politically over the past few years. In 2020, Joe Biden was the first Democrat to carry the county since Jimmy Carter in 1976. And while DeSantis coasted to reelection by 19 points in November, the Republican governor carried Duval by 12 points.
Deegan, a cousin of the late Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri, started her career in broadcast journalism after graduating from Florida State University. She was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 2020, losing a bid for a deep-red northeast Florida seat to GOP Rep. John Rutherford.
In 2003, the former journalist started The DONNA Foundation, a nonprofit providing financial assistance and support to those living with breast cancer and funding research after receiving multiple diagnoses of breast cancer. She chronicled her experiences in two books and also founded 26.2 with DONNA: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, which raises money for breast cancer research and care.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.