Former Jacksonville TV personalities vying for seats in upcoming city elections

Is their name recognition a game changer?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even though we just finished one city election, candidates are already gearing up for another in a year.

That election includes the mayor, sheriff, all city council seats and other offices.

The names of the candidates are piling up, and in some cases, you probably will recognize them as former TV anchors and reporters.

Ken Amaro on Thursday announced he is running for city council. The former First Coast News investigative reporter and anchor is actually seeking the council seat in the Arlington area that will be vacated by another former TV anchor Joyce Morgan.

Morgan, who was once an anchor at News4JAX, is term-limited. She said her experience in the field helped with her campaign, but added that it was no guarantee that she would be elected.

I spoke with News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney, of the JU Public Policy Institute, about candidates who have worked in television.

“The advantage of name recognition from the media isn’t enough alone, but it can be substantial, and it can be an advantage,” Mullaney said.

Notably, Jacksonville’s history has shown that being on TV doesn’t mean an automatic win.

Still, two other former TV personalities — who lost recent elections — are giving it a shot again .

In the race for Jacksonville sheriff is former News4JAX crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, who is also a former police officer. He’s run for sheriff before and lost to current Sheriff Mike Williams.

Former First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan, a Democrat, is running for Jacksonville mayor. She has run for political office before. In 2020, she lost to current Republican Congressman John Rutherford.

It was the same fate for former News4JAX anchor Deborah Gianoulis, who lost a state Senate race in 2010. Many had thought her name recognition would help her beat then-incumbent John Thrasher.

There have been many other cases where TV personalities have won elections.

Harry Reagan, the former News4JAX editorial director in the 1980s, was elected to a seat on Jacksonville City Council in 1990.

And the late Ernie Mastroianni, a former News4JAX investigative reporter and news director in the 1960s, was elected to the position of property appraiser in 1987, a position he held for 16 years.

Robert Phillips, the chief election assistant in Duval County, said with next year’s races already heating up, any advantage can help.

“As an observer doing this for so many years, when I say candidates drive turnout, the candidate that people know, that people recognize their name, that recognition is huge,” Phillips said. “That probably will play a big factor.”

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.