Florida Democrats see a glimmer of hope in Florida with the mayoral election win in the state's largest city.
The party doesn't hold a single statewide office, and there's a strong chance the GOP challenger to President Joe Biden will be a Florida resident, but Democrats are cautiously optimistic after former TV anchor Donna Deegan's election as Jacksonville mayor, reported Politico.
“This solidifies we are not off the map,” said Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried. “Everybody is really excited. They feel that this is a great signal and that there is something to invest in Florida.”
Deegan's win could also serve as a signal to donors that Democrats remain viable in the longtime swing state, although some party insiders say that race shows that quality candidates matter.
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“Candidates and campaigns matter and what they say matters,” said Ashley Walker, who worked on Barack Obama's 2012 in Florida and served as a consultant to Deegan. “Donna was a very genuine candidate with a very compelling message with a localized campaign that focused on very Jacksonville-based issues.”
Democrats must build up their bench by finding local races they can win, Walker added.
“Democrats need to approach Florida in a very localized, piece by piece approach where we are going into purple areas,” Walker said.
A source close to the Biden campaign said the Jacksonville election was essentially a rejection of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who won the city by 12 points last year during the midterms, but has pursued a right-wing culture war agenda ahead of an expected 2024 presidential run, but Republicans insist Deegan was a one-off.
“We had a huge bloody primary where millions of dollars were spent to rip apart the eventual Republican nominee,” said state GOP chair Christian Ziegler. “The clock ran out and we didn’t have enough time to recover. Florida is a much different monster than a municipal off year."