Jacksonville broadcast media legend Donna Deegan is voluble by nature, but was terse Friday when asked if she was running for Congress.
“Thinking about it,” Democrat Deegan said about a potential run against entrenched Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.
Deegan has been “encouraged to run” for the plurality-Republican seat encompassing Nassau, St. Johns, and a gerrymandered chunk of Duval County.
At least one consultant suggested a launch after Veterans Day, which Deegan would not address on the phone, though sources suggest could be imminent as early as Thursday.
If there is a candidacy, as indications suggest: Her path from media to politics has been an interesting one.
Deegan, a Jacksonville native and alumna of Bishop Kenny High School, anchored for First Coast News from 1992 to 2016, showing in that role a penchant for hard news and a willingness to dive into challenging stories.
While anchoring for First Coast News, Deegan faced challenges of her own: Specifically, three bouts of breast cancer.
Indomitably, she overcame all three occurrences, documenting her journey in two memoirs and, in 2008, beginning “26.2 with Donna: the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.”
Deegan — a cousin of the ever-loquacious Jacksonville City Councilman Tommy Hazouri — long ago transcended her former role as newscaster.
By the 2018 campaign, Deegan was a more-than-capable advocate and campaign surrogate for Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
Gillum carried Duval County handily in both August and November, and the instant credibility Deegan’s early support afforded him factored into what some consultants called “a surge.”
However, a run against Rep. John Rutherford would come with its own challenges.
In Q3 of 2019, Rutherford reported just over $70,000 raised, giving him $228,900 raised for the election cycle, and $443,376 on hand.
The vast majority of the funds raised in the quarter came from corporate political action committees, or PACs.
Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville Sheriff, faced his toughest challenge in a battle royale style 2016 GOP primary to replace outgoing Rep. Ander Crenshaw.
Since then, he has been protected by a combination of strong name identification, a deep red district, and underwhelming challengers, as well as a strong Republican plurality. He typically garners roughly 70 percent of the vote.
But he has never faced a challenger like Donna Deegan.
Still, institutional protections abound for the political lifer.
GOP voters comprise 286,013 of the district’s 577,173 registered voters, compared to 155,073 Democrats, with independents and third party registrants making up the balance.
Expect that Rutherford’s political consultants, including takedown artist Tim Baker, would dig deep for oppo should there be any significant voter break Deegan’s way.
At least in a theoretical sense, Rutherford and Deegan could each face a primary challenge, offering nominal complications ahead of the fall ballot.
Perennial candidate Gary Koniz, who has run as Republican and independent in the past, seeks to fly the banner of the Grand Old Party in 2020.
Media types are familiar with Koniz’s blast emails, which advance fringe theories, complete with idiosyncratic capitalization.
Koniz has yet to ramp up his fundraising machine, if FEC filings are any indication.
Deegan also may face competition.
Democrat Monica DePaul awaits in the general election, according to filings with the state of Florida.
DePaul, a substitute teacher, had floated a run in the 2018 Democratic primary before withdrawing and preemptively announcing a 2020 run.
Like Koniz, DePaul has thus far avoided fundraising.
Chris Eagle, another Democrat, likewise has raised zilch. Erick Aguilar. who is also listed as a candidate with the Federal Elections Commission, leads all filed Democrats in cash on hand.
He has $52 to deploy, as of the end of September.