Donna Deegan, a Democrat, faces long odds in her 4th Congressional District challenge to Republican John Rutherford.
For starters, the district is 48% GOP and just 28% Democrat, and incumbent Rutherford held the cash edge headed into the stretch run of the campaign.
But polling shows some bright spots for the first time candidate. Deegan, according to the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab, is poised to split NPA voters in the district with Rutherford, a former three-term Jacksonville Sheriff.
So even if the former broadcast journalist and Jacksonville lifer can’t ride whatever Blue Wave manifests in 2020, she’s positioned well for a future campaign.
But despite the polls and the realities of a district drawn to perform Republican, Deegan’s pushing forward with a moderate Democrat message, and she had a forum Tuesday night with the Collective Voice Partners ahead of the only televised debate of the campaign Wednesday evening on WJXT.
Deegan, interviewed by her former First Coast News colleague Angela Spears, expressed concerns about Republican attempts to “throw every roadblock in the way of the Affordable Care Act.”
“They are now trying to take it by the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice,” Deegan said, saying her goal was to ensure “affordable healthcare” for everyone, even beyond Obamacare.
“I would like to expand on that,” Deegan said, lamenting Democratic failure to add a “high-quality public option” when they had the political power to sway the debate.
Much of Deegan’s current pitch is as a reasoned mediator, and she hit those points.
“I believe I can work across the aisle,” Deegan said. “Because this district is so gerrymandered, I think this representative has been protected from having to work with the other side.”
Ironically, Rep. John Rutherford, though yoked to President Donald Trump, has trumpeted his own bipartisan bona fides. A scorecard from 2019 showed Rutherford as the second most bipartisan member of the Florida Delegation.