JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Democrat Donna Deegan defeated Republican Daniel Davis — becoming Jacksonville’s first female mayor — in a runoff on Tuesday.
Deegan addressed supporters and community members shortly before the final results came in.
“We made history tonight folks,” Deegan said. “It is a brand new day for Jacksonville, Florida.”
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Davis and Deegan had been pitching themselves to voters with contrasting viewpoints since they landed in the runoff in March when no candidates in the first election received 50% of the vote.
Deegan led in March with 39% of the vote to Davis’ 25% in a field of seven candidates, but the runoff race was expected to be close.
In the end, Deegan’s victory was called less than 45 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday, and she won by 9,027 votes.
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The campaign heated up after the first election when an attack ad against Deegan -- paid for by the Republican Party on behalf of Davis -- started airing, sparking a response from Deegan, calling the ad “racially insensitive.”
Former Jacksonville Sheriff Nathaniel “Nat” Glover spoke in an ad paid for by a nonpartisan group, saying he believed that ad and others from the Republicans were dividing the city.
Sheriff T.K. Waters had his own ad supporting Davis and called Deegan’s policies “radical.”
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News4JAX spoke to both Deegan and Davis after competing events earlier this month and asked them about the policing issue that had become central in the campaign with Davis framing Deegan as anti-police and Deegan saying he was intentionally mischaracterizing her.
“He has been telling and creating lies about me this entire campaign. I was very grateful that [former] Sheriff Nat Glover came out in a commercial today and said stop the lying,” Deegan said. “It is time to bring this community together. And if someone is going to conduct themselves like that in a campaign. I think they will conduct themselves like that as mayor. So I would ask people to consider that.”
“Every one of the marketing pieces or commercials that you’ve seen have been my opponent’s own words and you have someone who is going to stand with the sheriff’s office and police to make sure have safe streets,” Davis said. “You either have someone who wants to hold the sheriff accountable or the criminals accountable. I’m going to hold the criminals accountable because I think they should be put in jail.”
While Deegan and Davis have made their opposing positions and differing approaches on most topics abundantly clear, in a radio forum on WOKV in April both said they would add more police officers to the streets, but they would also look at prevention and intervention to combat crime.
Despite the contentious race, after Deegan’s victory, Davis said he spoke with her and told her that he will help in any way he can to make sure Jacksonville is the best city it can be.
Currently, there is a Confederate monument located in Springfield Park, but should tax dollars be used to take it down? The candidates were split on that and so is the public.
Deegan: “I have said repeatedly I would spend public money, just as our current mayor has said he would do to remove those confederate monuments to make sure that people don’t have to walk by them, and be reminded of the time in our history, that quite frankly, we should be ashamed of.”
Davis: “I am not going to use taxpayer dollars to remove any monument in Jacksonville. I believe we need to focus on how we spend our money and the children in the high-risk neighborhoods. If we were going to spend $1 million to take down a monument what better use could we use that money for?”
Police, fire pensions
Since Jacksonville no longer offers pensions to new hires, only 401K-type programs, many are bypassing Jacksonville for other cities that have better retirement programs. During a recent forum, both Davis and Deegan addressed the issue. Both said they don’t want to see a return to the city pension plan but want to look at the possibility of switching to the Florida Retirement System and pay into that.
Deegan: “At some point you can’t kick the can down the road on this forever. There is going to be some pain involved, but I do think at the end of the day we are going to have to go back or at least look seriously at going back to defined benefits I don’t have a timetable on that, I think it’s something we are going to have to look at if we want to obtain the best and the brightest.”
Davis: “I will tell you that I have said all options are on the table. There is not a city pension that I would be willing to bring back. I would be willing to look at a state FRS pension. that is something that is data proven, and I would be willing to make sure we are obtain the best and the brightest.”
For more on the mayoral candidates’ positions and to see other races that were on the ballot, go to our News4JAX Voter’s Guide.