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Republicans lose control of two long-held GOP cities as party lurches rightward

Republicans won’t run the cities of Jacksonville, Florida, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the first time in decades.

By Emily Singer - May 17, 2023
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Colorado Springs mayoral candidate Yemi Mobolade cheers as he runs onto the stage to give a speech, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, during an election watch party at the COS City Hub in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)

Republicans on Tuesday night lost two mayoral elections in cities long-held by the GOP, marking the latest instance of Republicans’ lurch to the right that is hurting the party at the ballot box.

Democrat Donna Deegan defeated Republican Daniel Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, becoming the first female mayor in city history and the second Democrat in the last 30 years to hold the office.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, independent Yemi Mobolade defeated Republican former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. It’s the first time since voters in the city began directly electing mayors in 1979 that a Republican will not hold the office, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The Republican candidates in both races painted their opponents as dangerous liberals, yet the message didn’t stick — even in places like Colorado Springs, which backed former President Donald Trump in 2020.

In Jacksonville, Davis tried to hamper Deegan’s campaign by weaponizing GOP “culture war” issues, attacking her for attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020 and claiming she wanted to defund the police. Davis also campaigned alongside Moms for Liberty, a conservative activist group that’s seeking to ban books in schools and prohibit teachers from talking about LGBTQ issues. Those are the same issues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been focused on as he gears up for his rumored presidential bid. 

Despite the attacks, Deegan defeated Davis in the race 52% to 48%, according to DecisionDeskHQ.

In Colorado Springs, Williams defined Mobolade as a “liberal.” However, that didn’t work in the historically Republican city, a point Williams made after conceding defeat.

“It’s clear Colorado Springs is less conservative than it used to be,” Williams, the former chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “When I was chairman here, we had no Democratic state reps. Now we have three. So there are significant changes that have taken place and I congratulate Yemi on an excellent campaign.”

Mobolade, a Nigerian immigrant who ran as an independent but campaigned on traditionally Democratic values. On his campaign website, Mobolade advocated for climate protections, increasing services for the homeless population, and said his philosophy is to, “advance the common good, elevate human dignity, protect human rights, and promote public safety for all.”

“Colorado Springs will become an inclusive, cultural rich, economically prosperous, safe and vibrant city on a hill that shines brightly,” Mobolade said Tuesday night.

Democratic strategists and political analysts said the results in both mayoral contests are warning signs for the GOP in 2024.

“For folks who don’t know Jacksonville, the city and county are the same government. Wrong to think this is another ‘big’ Dem city. It has outlying rural areas and a significant number of military retirees. It’s a slightly red-leaning bellweather for the state,” Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who specializes in elections, tweeted.

Republicans have struggled electorally since the Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in June 2022. The ruling paved the way for Republicans across the country to ban abortion before fetal viability, usually considered around 24 weeks gestation. Polling shows such bans are unpopular with voters. And those voters have subsequently voted against Republicans in part thanks their opposition to the medical procedure. 

In addition, Republicans have also focused on other culture war issues, such as book banning and targeting transgender children and their families, that may excite their base in a primary election, but repel the electorate in a general election.

Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist who correctly predicted that the 2022 midterms would not bring a so-called “red wave,” also said Tuesday’s results show the GOP’s rightward shift could be a harbinger of bad news for the party in 2024.

“It appears that some of the same things which drove Dem overperformance throughout 2022 – abortion extremism, mass shooting, extremist MAGA candidates – is driving strong D performance so far in 2023 in CO/FL/PA/WI,” Rosenberg tweeted. “Rs are way out of position, again.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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