Jacksonville, FL Mayor: The race to lead Jacksonville, which at nearly 1 million residents is both Florida's biggest city and the largest in the country with a Republican mayor, will head to a May 16 runoff between Democrat Donna Deegan and Republican Daniel Davis after no candidate secured a majority of the vote on Tuesday night.
Deegan, a former local TV news anchor, finished first with 39%, while Davis, the CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, took the second slot with 25% after a nasty and expensive intra-party battle with City Councilmember LeAnne Cumber, who ended up in fifth place with just 8%. Overall, the four Republican candidates collectively accounted for 51% of the vote while Deegan and another Democrat combined for 48% (an independent took 1%), which was by far the best showing for Democrats in a first-round election since 1995.
Republicans, however, have largely controlled city politics since they ended a century of Democratic dominance in Jacksonville three decades ago, when Mayor Ed Austin switched parties while in office in 1993. Since that time, they've only lost one mayoral contest. That defeat came in 2011, when Democrat Alvin Brown scored a major upset in an open seat contest, a win that also made him the city's first Black chief executive. Four years later, however, Brown narrowly lost to Republican Lenny Curry, who is now term-limited.
One recent positive development for Democrats, though, came in 2020, when Joe Biden became the party's first presidential candidate to carry Duval County (whose residents can all vote in Jacksonville elections) since Jimmy Carter, beating Donald Trump by a 51-47 margin. The electorate in presidential years, however, differs considerably from those in local elections, and turnout was unusually low on Tuesday.
And despite their stronger showing at the top of the ticket, Democrats fared poorly in elections for the City Council, where Republicans currently hold a 14-5 majority. That bottom line won't change, since the GOP is assured of winning 12 seats and Democrats just two, with another five headed to a runoff with one candidate from each party. That desultory outcome came despite the fact that a coalition of civil rights groups successfully challenged the city's most recent redistricting plan as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander that harmed Black voters and persuaded a judge to adopt one of their own maps instead.
The GOP's grasp on the council could prove a significant obstacle to Deegan should she prevail in May, since it only takes a simple majority of all members elected (or two-thirds of members present) to override a mayor's vetoes. But before she can even think about that problem, she'll will first have to get past Davis, a former councilmember himself who to date has outraised Deegan by a wide $6 million to $1.2 million margin.