At EveryDistrict, we believe that Democrats can run competitive campaigns in every district at the state level. We aim to rebuild the Democratic Party by winning power back at the state level through better data and better approaches to fundraising.
After the 2016 election, Democrats were a powerless majority. Despite having won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, the 2016 election only added to the losses of recent years. Since 2009, Democrats had lost 10% of their Senate seats, 20% of their House seats, 35% of their governors, and 20% of their state legislative houses, over 1,000 legislative seats in all. Republicans held trifectas (where one party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature) in 25 states, while Democrats held trifectas in only six states.
These losses started in 2010, when Republicans, locked out of power in 2008, turned their attention to the states. Their REDMAP Project targeted key districts across the country in the 2010 midterm election necessary to flip chambers, and it was a stunning success. In the 2010 election, Republicans flipped 20 chambers, giving them control in key swing states just before the redistricting process was to begin. And they did it with a very small percentage of Americans casting the deciding ballots; only 41.8% of eligible voters showed up at the polls.
Once in power, Republicans not only used their majorities to gerrymander district lines and lock in control. They also enacted extreme, conservative agendas out of step with the voters in those states. Republicans made it harder for people to vote, harder for people to access health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, ignored the facts on climate change in favor of the fossil fuel lobby, and enacted right-to-work laws.
In early 2017, EveryDistrict was founded to rebuild the Democratic Party from the states up using better data and better fundraising.
To support this mission, EveryDistrict first set out to understand where there were competitive districts that Democrats could flip with the right investment and strategy. We knew that Republicans had this information thanks to their successful REDMAP Project. But unlike congressional races, no public database existed that provided a competitiveness ranking for every state legislative district.
Starting with the Virginia House of Delegates, EveryDistrict’s first target chamber in 2017, EveryDistrict created the EveryDistrict “Legislative District Index” (LDI) to rank each of the 100 House of Delegate districts by their competitiveness. This unique data resource provided the foundation for EveryDistrict’s strategic investments in 2017 and gave us a highly predictive roadmap for the seats most likely to flip blue. In Virginia, EveryDistrict endorsed 13 Democratic challengers, and ten of them won their races.
Building on this success, EveryDistrict developed the LDI for all 50 states. This nationwide view supported a highly targeted investment strategy, focused on the state legislative districts necessary to win to flip chambers.
We also knew this tool could help others. Republicans benefitted from low turnout elections and a lack of understanding among Democrats about what was going on in the states. EveryDistrict developed the first ever public nationwide competitiveness map of state legislative districts to help activists across the country identify, and organize in, the best places to make change in their local community. This information has been used by PACs and activists to inform their decisions in the 2018 cycle.
Looking ahead to elections in 2019 and 2020, EveryDistrict will be refining our LDI score and expanding our data analysis to make our LDI and map the “gold standard” for how Democrats understand state legislatures in future cycles. The more detailed data analysis we will be conducting as part of our Purple States report in 2019 will create a wealth of information about state legislatures never previously available to the public.
This data analysis will also inform how we make future investments. In 2019, EveryDistrict will be back in Virginia, and we will add a new state to our list, Mississippi. In 2020, we plan to return to our five 2018 target states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), and our updated LDI work will guide where else we make investments.
EveryDistrict’s second major activity in support of our mission involved endorsing strong candidates running in competitive districts and providing those candidates with direct financial support. Again, Democrats were playing catch up to Republicans. Between 2006 and 2012, the RLSC (the Republican state legislative campaign arm) outraised the DLCC (the Democratic state legislative campaign arm) 2.5 times.
We also felt that there had to be a better way to do fundraising. Instead of today’s extractive methods of fundraising that involve a focus on big dollar donors and aggressive email campaigns for small dollar donors, we saw an opportunity to do fundraising differently. In the same way we saw the ability for our data to bring more people into the political process, we saw a way for fundraising to be an organizing strategy that would bring more people into the fundraising process. This would not only reduce the amount of time candidates spent dialing for dollars, but reduce their reliance on donations from large donors and special interests.
Our grassroots peer-to-peer fundraising strategy organizes donors – who we call Fundraising Champions – to tap into their networks to raise funds for state legislative candidates. To date, this effort has raised over $400,000. In 2019 and 2020, we’ll be expanding our peer-to-peer fundraising efforts to support even more candidates across the country.
Since our founding in early 2017, EveryDistrict has endorsed 76 candidates across six states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Our financial support has helped to elect 37 new state legislators.
We’re already seeing results. In 2017, the GOP-controlled Virginia legislature refused to expand Medicaid, despite then-Governor Terry McAuliffe’s advocacy. In November 2017, Democrats flipped 15 seats in the legislature and changed the game. Today, 400,000 more Virginians have access to health care, and 200,000 have already signed up.
In this first biennial report, you will learn more about our work over the past two years, and read our reflections on our successes and challenges and our outline for our plans for 2019 and 2020. We will also speak to the continued challenges for any group and any Democratic candidate seeking to make progress at the state-level.
To download the full report, click here.