For the first time since the 2015 campaign, a Democrat will run for Jacksonville Mayor.
Former newscaster Donna Deegan said Tuesday she would formalize what has been a functional pre-campaign, adding bipartisan texture to the 2023 field.
In 2019, Democrats didn’t field a candidate against Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. Curry defeated Democrat Alvin Brown four years prior.
“Jacksonville can do better,” Deegan said on WJCT’s First Coast Connect Tuesday.
Deegan said this will be the last office for which she will run, and that ahead of the campaign, she is going to spend a lot of time with the “grassroots.”
Expect the personal connection to be central to Deegan’s pitch.
Deegan was a fixture on Jacksonville television news before making moves toward the political sphere in 2018, speaking on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. In 2020, she ran for Congress, losing to Rep. John Rutherford in a district not designed for Democrats to win.
“That was a heavily gerrymandered district,” Deegan said on WJCT, responding to a Republican critique of her “failed” Congressional campaign.
This campaign would seem to be more hospitable, though Deegan faces structural challenges.
Her state-level Donna for Duval political committee has struggled to fundraise, at least by Republican opponents’ standards. Through three months, the committee has brought in a little more than $177,000.
When asked about fundraising, Deegan said it was “disconcerting” how much “crazy, crazy money” gets raised and spent on campaigns.
“I expect the huge majority of our fundraising to look different … it may take longer,” Deegan said on WJCT.
October fundraising numbers are due by midnight Tuesday, but the timing of the launch would seem designed to distract from whatever the ultimate fundraising total is.
To put Deegan’s fundraising in perspective, it is on par with just one of the major Republicans in the race. Jacksonville City Council member Al Ferraro has raised roughly $167,000 between his campaign account and his Keep It Real Jax political committee. And Ferraro is by far the weakest fundraiser of a group that has already proven to have donor appeal.
Jacksonville City Council member Matt Carlucci had raised roughly $1 million through September between his campaign account and his political committee, Next Generation Jax.
Another Republican Council member, LeAnna Cumber, reported a $961,000 debut month in September for her JAX First political committee. Cumber is not an official candidate, but is leaning toward a decision early next year.
The leading fundraiser exploring the race is still Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis, who had nearly $2.85 million in his Building a Better Economy political committee. He is also a Republican.
Deegan acknowledged the Davis haul, telling WJCT listeners that she hadn’t been raising money since 2014 for the race, a nod to how long Davis has had that political committee.
In addition to the four Republicans in the mix, unaffiliated candidates Omega Allen, Urban League President Richard Danford, and Darcy Richardson are all running, further complicating any attempts to forecast the race.
Deegan has advantages beyond money, including both name recognition and a plurality of Democratic voters in Duval County. A total of 264,862 Democrats were registered at this writing, compared to just 227,189 registered Republicans.
Deegan and the other candidates in the mix have a long time to campaign. Qualifying week runs from Jan. 9 to Jan. 13, 2023.
The First Election, which pits all qualified candidates against each other, is March 21, 2023. Assuming no one in the field gets more than 50% of the vote, the General Election is May 16, 2023.