Deegan calls new mayoral attack ad ‘racially insensitive’; Davis doubles down on claim she wants to defund JSO

Daniel Davis says he just wants to keep citizens safe; Deegan vows to support JSO, not run attack ads

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s a new advertisement flooding the airwaves in Jacksonville’s mayoral race.

The ad approved by Republican candidate Daniel Davis accuses his Democratic opponent Donna Deegan of attending all the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Jacksonville after the 2020 death of George Floyd.

Meanwhile, Deegan’s ad that’s been on the air for nearly two weeks strikes a different tone and focuses on infrastructure, crime and the economy.

Davis’ attack accuses Deegan of aligning herself with the “radical left” while Deegan’s commercial makes no mention of Davis and focuses on local issues. News4JAX set out on Monday to speak with both candidates about two very different approaches in running to be Jacksonville’s next mayor.

“I went to every one of those Black Lives Matter protests,” Deegan is seen saying three times in the ad backed by Davis.

In the ad, Republicans accuse Deegan of being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, alleging that Deegan wants to defund the police.

Deegan told News4JAX on Monday she’s pro-police and would hire more officers if she is elected mayor.

She also pointed out that current Jacksonville Mayor Lenny, then-Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and current Sheriff T.K. Waters also attended a Black Lives Matter protest in the city in 2020. A video shows them walking in a demonstration downtown after they were invited by Jacksonville Jaguars players who organized the event.

“If you don’t have a vision then you use those divisive tactics. [Davis] doesn’t want to talk about issues,” Deegan said. “There are attempts to make that look like it was something it wasn’t. Frankly, it seems racially insensitive to me the way that was handled, and I just don’t know how that makes us a stronger community to try and divide on those things.”

Deegan told News4JAX she does not plan to launch any attack ads against Davis.

“I will continue to bring out the issues which I think divide myself and my opponent in terms of things that we may see that are not the same,” Deegan said.

News4JAX asked Davis what he thought of the accusation by Deegan that the ad was racially insensitive.

“All I want to do is make sure the citizens are safe. I’m going to make sure our Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the men and women in blue have what they need,” Davis said.

When asked if he knew that Curry and other city leaders also participated in a Black Lives Matter protest, he said, “I’m not talking about anybody else, I’m talking about me and my position. I want to make sure that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has everything they need to keep you safe and put more officers on the streets.”

Davis stood by his latest political commercial saying it shows the stark difference between the two candidates. He also doubled down on his allegation that Deegan wants to defund JSO.

Davis said Deegan is only saying she doesn’t want to defund JSO in response to his ad.

“She’s been listening to everything I’ve been saying and she’s copying what I’m saying,” Davis said. “You can’t speak out of both sides of your mouth.”

Deegan pointed back to her ad which mentions public safety.

″I’m very pro-police,” Deegan said. “I believe that we need to make sure we are taking care of our police officers and I want to make sure we are taking care of our community. I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.”

News4JAX asked Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters about his and other officials’ involvement in the demonstrations and his Sunday statement to News4JAX that reads, “Our next Mayor should stand for the rule of law. Siding with radical organizations that violently attack my officers and destroy businesses won’t keep our city safe.”

RELATED: Video shows JSO officer punching protester | Officer’s neck slashed during confrontation with protestors

“I believe it is important to remember the difference between a peaceful march, and the violent protests we witnessed throughout the streets of Jacksonville. These riots posed a serious threat not only to our officers, but also to our citizens. Protestors vandalized patrol vehicles, victimized small business owners, and even hospitalized an officer with neck wounds,” Waters wrote in a statement. “This type of criminal behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in the City of Jacksonville, and it’s important that our next mayor feels the same way. My decision to support a law and order candidate like Daniel Davis stems from his commitment to giving officers the resources they need to fight crime, not defunding them.”

Both Curry and Williams acknowledged that the May 2020 protests downtown began peacefully, but as the day went on, they said things took a violent turn.

The protests were originally part of a nationwide show of solidarity focusing largely on the death of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Curry and Williams said about 1,200 people showed up for that protest, which began around 3 p.m. Williams said there was “really good cooperation” from the organizers. As the day progressed, he said, things changed.

RELATED: Peaceful protest marred by riots in downtown Jacksonville

At about 6:30 p.m., after many people went home, Williams said, about 200 people “hung around” and began to confront police.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.