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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Game On — Battle for State Legislatures Begins

Emma Roller has some very good news in her National Journal post “Can Democrats Ever Win Back State Legislatures? One group is putting $70 million on it happening in the next five years.”
The bad news is it’s going to take some time. As Roller puts it, “Caring about the 2016 presidential race is so over; now all the cool kids are watching 2020…Since 2008, Democrats have lost control of 30 state legislative chambers–totaling 910 seats–and 11 governorships.” Further,

…Today, Republicans control 68 out of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers–every state has two chambers except for Nebraska. That’s nearly 70 percent of the total. So, how feasible is it for Democrats to regain the seats that they lost, in districts that (they argue) have been tailor-drawn for Republicans’ benefit?.

The better news:

Now, one group–the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee–is striking out with an ambitious goal to win many of those state legislature seats back over the next five years. Back in August, the DLCC launched Advantage 2020, a super PAC devoted to rebuilding Democratic power at the state level with the goal of eventually holding the crayons in 2021, when states will redraw congressional district lines.
It’s a quixotic mission, given that many Republican legislatures redrew the maps in 2011 specifically to ensure their party’s continued electoral victory. Still, with the right combination of timing, recruiting, outreach, funding, and dumb luck, Democrats might actually be able to recoup some of their losses.
…The group projects it will spend $70 million on state-level races over the next five years and plans to focus its efforts on six states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, and Virginia. Those states, which draw the lines for 94 congressional seats, are all Republican-controlled at the state level, yet all favored President Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012.

Dems are hoping that next two presidential elections in combination with favorable demographic winds and the DLCC plan will overpower the Republican’s expected gains in the 2018 midterm elections. Roller adds:

For the DLCC, there is a silver lining to the swell of victory Republicans saw at the state level in 2010: term limits. Lawmakers in three of Advantage 2020’s six target states–Ohio, Michigan, and Florida–are term-limited, meaning that many of the seats will be wide open in five years.

All of the usual caveats apply. But Democrats should be encouraged by what appears to be an enhanced commitment to take the fight to the state legislatures.

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