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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Challenge for Dems: How to Prevent Further GOP/NRA Recall Wins

At Daily Kos, David Nir spotlights a tough strategic challenge facing Democrats: GOP/NRA successes in recalling Democratic state legislators. Here’s Nir on the most recent incident in Colorado:

… In the face of a likely recall election, Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak has opted to resign, a move that short-circuits the recall effort. A Hudak loss would have handed control of the Senate to Republicans, who are now just one seat shy of the majority following two successful recalls of other Democratic lawmakers earlier this year. Now, however, the recall won’t take place, and Democrats will be able to appoint a replacement (though that person will have to seek re-election in 2014, whereas Hudak would have served until 2016).
Hudak’s decision, while highly unusual, isn’t actually that surprising, and we discussed this very possibility when news of a new recall drive first emerged. Hudak’s seat is only light blue, and she won both of her prior races by very narrow margins, plus she was also term-limited. Given the ugly dropoff in Democratic turnout in the prior recalls, she’d have been looking at steep odds. Instead, she decided to truly take one for the team…But while Democrats will retain their majority, the gun activists who have forced and threatened all of these recalls can claim another victim….

Nir adds that there are many more vulnerable seats held by Dems in state legislatures, though it remains an open question, whether the Colorado recall template will work in less NRA-friendly purple districts. Nir concludes with a challenging question for Dems regarding 2014:

…This falloff in Democratic performance in non-presidential races is a deeply disturbing phenomenon, given that it’s now gone so far as to turn lawmakers out of office without even conducting an election! Who out there is working on fixing this?

There are lots of strategic possibilities worth discussing in answering the question, including more assertive opposition to the NRA, which functions a tool of the GOP and putting more resources into off-year turnout mobilization. Dems must also focus on getting a bigger share of the pivotal senior vote in non-presidential years, especially since polls indicate that they are turning off to the GOP.
Nir notes elsewhere that at least one Republican has voiced concern that the recall strategy could backfire, as it did on Dems in Wisconsin. That may be a concern. But so far the GOP has succeeded in dumping three Dem legislators in CO.
Control of the state legislatures has been key to GOP gerrymandering in recent years. It’s hard enough to get Democrats elected in swing districts. But now Dems must formulate a workable strategy to defeat GOP/NRA recall campaigns.

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