JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Donna Deegan on Tuesday made it official: she is running to become the next mayor of Jacksonville.
Deegan’s Facebook page updated Tuesday morning with the banner “Donna Deegan for mayor” along with the hashtag “Change for good.” She filed her paperwork to run on Monday.
The changes came ahead of her formal announcement Tuesday morning in Springfield outside the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.
Deegan, a Democrat and former local TV personality, is a breast cancer research advocate and three-time breast cancer survivor. She said it was walking through those bouts with cancer that she learned many in our own community must make the choice between food and medicine.
“They helped me see that the woman who did not want to be the poster child for breast cancer was the one who must be exactly that to become an agent of change. Sometimes it’s the things that we are reluctant to do that are the very things that God calls us to do,” Deegan said.
She said it was her empathy for those families that led her to create her foundation and the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
“We need that empathy in our politics today. That is not weakness,” Deegan said. “Our strength as a community comes from seeing each other fully, wanting the same quality of life for our neighbors as we want for ourselves. And that is why I am standing here today declaring my candidacy for mayor of Jacksonville.”
She laid out three “pillars” for her campaign, focused on infrastructure, health and the economy.
“I know how very easy it is to become cynical about our politics, to believe that nothing that we do matters. When decade after decade promises are made and broken and not brought up again until it’s election time. The people who want to keep the power in the hands of the few would be just fine with that,” Deegan said. “But I am asking you today to believe with me that it all matters. As we stand here in Springfield today, every bit of empathy for each other matters. Every small step we take together matters.”
Deegan, who ran and lost against Republican Congressman John Rutherford last year, is the fifth candidate in the 2023 mayoral race.
Republican councilmen Matt Carlucci and Al Ferraro are also running along with non-party affiliated candidates Omega Allen and Darcy G. Richardson. Other names rumored as potential mayoral candidates are Daniel Davis, president of the Jax Chamber, and City Council member LeAnna Cumber.
Allen and Richardson have not reported any campaign fundraising or expenses yet. So far, Carlucci, who filed to run in January, has raised $998,795.78 and Ferraro, who filed to run in March, has raised $166,283.22. Deegan formed a state-level political committee in July that has raised $177,138 so far.
While Cumber and Davis are not declared, they have been raising money. Davis’ political committee has raised more than $2.7 million this year. Cumber’s political committee, which was just formed in September, has raised $960,017.72 so far.
In the past 30 years, a Democrat has won the mayor’s seat in Jacksonville only once, and the local GOP is already taking shots. Duval County GOP Head Dean Black said in a statement: “Deegan is easily the most liberal candidate for Mayor in our history: anti-police, pro-taxes, and radical values.”
Deegan pushed back against those comments.
“Anyone who was following me knows that I am not radical and knows that I am not extreme in any way knows that I have a heart for this city,” Deegan said.
UNF Professor of Political Science Michael Binder said Deegan’s loss in the congressional race doesn’t mean she’ll lose a race for mayor.
“The congressional race isn’t a fair comparison because of the district that the congressional maps fall on. It runs up into Nassau County, a heavily Republican district. Almost plus 20 points. Duval County is plus 6 democrats in registration,” Binder said.
News4Jax Political Analyst Rick Mullaney said it’s been speculated for some time that Deegan could run for mayor and that she could be a formidable candidate.
“As 2018 and 2020 showed, Duval County is trending blue and a Democrat could be very formidable in the 2023 mayor’s race,” Mullaney said. “Although she lost to Rutherford last year in running for Congress, she performed well — she did very well in the Channel 4 debate with Rutherford — and that district strongly favors a Republican. This has been expected by many and she could be formidable.”
With current Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry terming out, there will be no incumbent in the 2023 mayoral race.
Even though city elections are technically non-partisan, Democrats didn’t run a candidate against Curry in 2019 after Curry defeated Democrat Alvin Brown in 2015.
Election day is March 21, 2023.