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MEMO: State Legislative Democrats Continue Overperforming in Special Elections

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From the critical PA HD-140 race in Bucks County to coming within 5 points of a Trump +18 seat in Oklahoma, the DLCC has the best winning strategy in politics

WASHINGTON – The DLCC and our partners in Pennsylvania maintained the Pennsylvania House Democratic majority last night after DLCC Spotlight Candidate Jim Prokopiak won his critical special election in the battleground HD-140. The DLCC played heavily in this race, investing $50k into the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus ahead of the election and working alongside Rep-elect Prokopiak, his campaign, and allies on the ground every step of the way. His victory guarantees that Speaker Joanna McClinton retains the speaker’s gavel and paves the way for Gov. Shapiro to deliver the progress that Pennsylvanians deserve. Everything was at stake in this race – a Republican win would have set up the GOP to gain control of both legislative chambers in April, when they would be poised to pass an abortion ban, discriminate against LGBTQ+ children, and push reckless gun laws that make communities less safe.

This isn’t the only notable part about last night’s results. Simply put, the DLCC’s momentum represents a winning strategy that is shifting the power in the states. The DLCC overperformed in special elections by six points on average last year, and we’ve taken that momentum into 2024 through an impressive flip in Florida earlier this year and last night’s dramatic victory in Pennsylvania. Our next mission will be in Michigan, with two special elections in April that will determine the House majority and the balance of power. The DLCC has the best winning streak in politics, and we are poised to carry our momentum to Michigan and across our target map in November.

Here are five takeaways from last night’s election results:

  1. The DLCC’s strategy to invest early and build support on the ground is making a difference

The DLCC has been all-in on this race since the beginning because we know investing early and often is essential to winning tight races. This majority-making special election was a decade in the making. Early investments are multipliers, building the foundation and campaign operations that are needed to win. In December, we invested $30K to the House Democratic Caucus to support building critical infrastructure – an investment not even directly tied to this race but to support Democratic power-building in the state. In January, the DLCC strategically invested another $50k into the House Democratic Caucus ahead of this election. We also devoted significant staff support to help the Prokopiak campaign emerge victorious. We are so proud of the campaign Prokopiak’s team ran, and we were proud to be with them every step of the way providing expertise and support. 

  1. The margin of victory was stunning – this is a Bucks County seat that went to Brian Fitzpatrick in 2022

Jim Prokopiak won 67% of the vote last night, to Cabanas’ 32%. This was a blowout, which is meaningful because Bucks County is considered one of the biggest swing counties in the state. Biden won this district in 2020, but Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has been elected three consecutive times, winning this district 51-48% in 2022. Bucks County is always closely watched as a litmus test for Democrats’ enthusiasm in suburbs that are often the deciding factor in close battleground elections. Last night’s election signals Democrats’ likely momentum up and down the ticket heading into November.

  1. Voters are rejecting Republicans’ MAGA extremism & want their freedoms protected

Voters in Bucks County were faced with a stark choice in this election. They understood that Republican candidate Candace Cabanas would be an extension of MAGA Republicans and could have been the deciding vote needed to ban abortion in  Pennsylvania. When Republicans had majority control of both legislative chambers in 2022, they were very close to putting anti-abortion and anti-voting constitutional amendments on the ballot. Democrats’ victory in flipping the House in 2022 narrowly defeated Republicans’ scheme – and voters understood this year that maintaining a Democratic majority was essential to safeguarding abortion rights. Jim Prokopiak focused his campaign on fighting for reproductive freedom, better schools, and an economy that works for all – that message resonated with voters. The new Democratic majority in the House protects the speaker’s gavel for Speaker Joanna McClinton and helps Gov. Shapiro deliver on the progress that Pennsylvanians deserve.

  1. This is part of a larger trend of Democratic overperformance 

Democrats are on an impressive winning streak, and our momentum is only growing. Throughout 2023, Democrats protected our majority in the Pennsylvania House through a series of high-stakes special elections, winning three special elections in February, another special election in May, and another in September. Last night’s victory marks the sixth special election victory that has helped  Democrats protect our majority since flipping the House chamber in 2022. 

Even beyond Pennsylvania, Democrats are winning – and winning big. Last night, Democrats massively overperformed in an Oklahoma special election in a ruby-red district. Democrat Regan Raff lost by just 5 points, in a district Donald Trump won by 18 points in 2020. The election has already “raised alarm bells” for the GOP. This builds on the DLCC’s growing momentum this year, including an impressive legislative flip in a battleground Florida district in January. Last year, Democrats overperformed in special elections by six points on average, and this year shows momentum and energy continue to be on our side. 

  1. The DLCC has the winning strategy to build power in the states, one election at a time

The DLCC is the only official Democratic Party committee dedicated to winning America’s state legislatures and building state infrastructure. The DLCC is a permanent, year-round presence overseeing work in all 50 states. Over the last decade, we have fought cycle-over-cycle to gain a dozen new legislative chamber majorities, and we are leading the effort to bring national attention and investment to our ballot level. State legislatures are the building blocks of our democracy and have the closest connections to Americans’ day-to-day lives. From protecting fundamental freedoms and voting rights to growing the middle class, the DLCC and state legislators are moving the Democratic agenda forward and shaping the future of this country. 

Conclusion:

To continue our progress and momentum, the DLCC needs more support and resources. More special elections are just months away – including majority-deciding special elections in Michigan – and we can’t miss a single opportunity. There’s never been a better time to join our mission. The DLCC has our most expansive target map ever this cycle, and the direction of the country is on the line. 

Visit us today at DLCC.org to join the fight.

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