Our democracy can no longer afford for state legislative politics to take a backseat in America’s political consciousness.
State legislatures are the building blocks of our democracy. Historically, Republicans have focused more on building power at the state legislative level than have Democrats — and they’re using that power to subvert our democracy, put up unnecessary barriers to the ballot box, and gerrymander themselves into permanent power.
The good news is that this rise of Trumpism opens a door for engaging moderate voters in the coming cycle. Banning abortion, banning books, and trying to overturn the 2020 election are repellant to swing voters. But make no mistake, we’re heading into an uncertain political environment that could favor the GOP. History has taught us that the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections.
The stakes are sky-high, but we’re clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.
We’re not taking any of our majorities for granted in 2022, and we will work hard to defend our majorities. We will simultaneously mount aggressive challenges in multiple Republican-controlled chambers. This work is vital to protecting the Democratic path to the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and the presidency.
To this end, we’re implementing a three-pronged strategy to protect our majorities this cycle, mount a competitive challenge to winnable GOP-held majorities, and build strategic power for future cycles.
Democrats have made significant progress undermining Republican dominance in state legislative elections over the past decade. Our first priority this year will be to defend those gains. We’re not taking any of our majorities for granted in a midterm election that historically has the party in power losing seats down-ballot. Winning state legislative majorities in challenging territory later in the decade starts with defending our progress today.
Colorado’s independent redistricting commission was lobbied by Republican operatives, and as a result, the maps are not representative of Colorado’s diverse electorate. Republicans would only need nine seats to regain a majority in the House, which could be possible, especially under the new maps. Democrats only hold three more seats in the state House than we did in 2010 when a wave GOP election ushered in a Republican majority. Republicans have made it clear that Colorado is a top target, and they’re already running ads to try to seize control. Help counter Republican ads and ensure we have the resources needed to defend chambers across the country.
Like many other states in the northeast, Maine is competitive at the state level. Republicans held the governor’s mansion and the state Senate in 2018, and they held a trifecta as recently as 2012. Maine voters also sent a Republican back to the Senate in 2020. Today, Republicans are already running ads in the state and would need to win eleven seats in the House to tie the chamber. The Senate flipped from red to blue in 2018, and while Democrats grew our majority in 2020, our margins are close. Republicans are just five seats away from taking back the majority. Democrats have won a string of competitive special elections in the Pine Tree State this cycle, but we can’t let up. We must continue to invest to defend our majorities in states like Maine in 2022.
Republicans have already highlighted the Minnesota House as a top pick-up opportunity for them. They’d need just four seats to capture an outright majority. While court-drawn maps have improved the partisan fairness of the House districts, we must invest heavily to hold our majority in states like Minnesota.
Nevada is shaping up to be a battleground for all levels of the ballot — including the state legislature, congressional races, and the gubernatorial. Republicans gained three seats in the Nevada Assembly during the 2020 election. While Nevada is trending blue, Republicans held both chambers as recently as 2016, and our margins are in the single digits. Republicans would need to gain six seats in the Assembly and two seats in the Senate to win the majority. States like Nevada will be slammed with GOP messages from now until November, so we must invest now to hold our majorities in state legislatures across the country.
Republicans flipped a seat in the House in the 2020 elections and, while they have a long way to go to take the majority, there will be a competitive governor’s race to drive turnout on both sides. Republicans need to win eleven seats to win a majority in New Mexico. Help the DLCC protect critical chambers across the country.
Targeting Vulnerable GOP Chambers
We won’t let up on GOP majorities in chambers where they’re vulnerable — and this cycle is no exception. Even in a political environment that could favor the GOP, these chambers present opportunities for Democrats to gain ground. These chambers are extremely competitive — so even if we fall short of an outright majority, we’re laying the groundwork to close our margins in future cycles.
Democrats won the popular vote for the state House in virtually every single election in the last decade, but it never translated to legislative majorities because of aggressively Republican gerrymandered districts. Michigan is ground zero for the rapidly radicalizing GOP and Donald Trump has already invested in some state legislative races here. While the House maps in Michigan still give Republicans a slight partisan advantage, we have an opportunity to gain ground this cycle. Even flipping one chamber will be critical in helping protect the path to the presidency.
Democrats are fighting to flip the state Senate, where we are on the cusp of a legislative majority. The maps here have improved slightly, though they still favor Republicans. Help the DLCC to secure Democratic wins across the country, like a Democratic trifecta in Minnesota, which can be accomplished by winning three additional seats.
The New Hampshire legislature has changed partisan control in six of the last eight elections, including in 2020 when Republicans flipped these chambers from blue to red. Even with Republicans in control of the map-making process, there’s still a path for Democrats here. We won a string of highly competitive special elections in New Hampshire last year, showing momentum is on our side. We’re all-in on taking back control and building Democratic power in New Hampshire.
Reversing Republican Advantages
In 2020, we saw national Democrats win elections in unprecedented territory. It’s time to start building towards that at the state legislative level. Redistricting realities, the political environment, and current legislative margins make these chambers challenging — but make no mistake, they’re competitive. We’re investing now to build towards longterm gains in these states.
Democrats have made significant progress over the last four years, with the state going blue at the federal level in 2018 and 2020. However, the redistricting process was hijacked by Republicans, resulting in unfair maps that are more partisan than they were in the last decade. Democrats need two seats in both the House and Senate for a majority, but because of redistricting, we’re focusing in on incumbent protection and gaining ground where we can in 2022.
While the maps in Pennsylvania improved, winning an outright majority in both chambers will be a steep hill to climb during a midterm year with high-profile top-of-the-ticket races drawing spending from both sides. However, Pennsylvania is competitive, and we’re investing now to make sure that we’re set up for success. Democrats need to flip 12 seats to win the House and four seats to tie the Senate.
The Georgia legislature isn’t red; it’s gerrymandered. Republicans have a trifecta and control the state – which means we’re competing on rigged maps. Republicans also passed extremely restrictive voting laws targeting communities of color. The good news is that DLCC has invested in Georgia since 2012, and those investments saw us flip 12 House seats in 2018 and another three seats red to blue in 2020. We were able to break the GOP supermajority in 2016 — showing how important it is to chip away at Republican power here. Democrats need to flip fourteen seats to win the House, which is a tough hill to climb in a gerrymandered legislature. We are gearing up for a long fight in Georgia.
Beyond our majorities
Breaking the GOP’s edge, largely built through unrepresentative gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws, isn’t easy or glamorous work. Majorities are not made overnight. That work can’t stop and start in October of an election year — it will take hard work and significant investments cycle after cycle to build majorities over the next decade.
States with diversifying populations are places we’re investing in now to build strategic levers of power to set ourselves up for success in future cycles. The Democratic Party’s prospects for the next decade rely on us doing the hard work and focusing on how to build power both now and for the future.
Democrats haven’t historically done a good job of focusing on the levers of power outside of DC — this is the first step to change that.
Protecting Democratic Governors’ Veto Power
We’ve defended Democratic governors’ veto powers in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina in recent cycles by fighting to prevent GOP supermajorities. Even if we aren’t able to build a legislative majority, ensuring that Democratic governors keep their veto powers helps keep GOP majorities in check by stopping anti-voting bills, anti-abortion bills, and other extremist legislation from becoming law.
Investing in Lieutenant Governor races and state Supreme Court seats
Republicans have made it clear that they’re going to spend record amounts on state Supreme Court races this year in response to courts blocking gerrymandered GOP maps.
As for lieutenant governor races, last year, the DLCC began investing in these important races where we believed it could impact chamber control. We’ll continue that work in 2022 and beyond to ensure that the courts remain fair.
Winning Competitive Districts in Tough States
Running up our margins in red states has an impact on legislation. In 2018, Republicans in Virginia finally joined Democrats to pass Medicaid expansion because they were worried about losing their majority. We will duplicate this effort by not backing down, by applying political pressure to adhere to the will of voters, and by repeatedly exposing Republican extremism. Majorities are made one seat at a time, so we’re investing everywhere there’s a competitive district to build towards winning majorities later in the decade.
Building Diverse Coalitions
Winning in the long term requires coalition-building everywhere. When we recruit candidates who reflect the communities they represent, those communities show up at the ballot box benefiting Democrats up and down the ticket.