At EveryDistrict, we believe that Democrats can run competitive campaigns in every district at every level. We aim to reverse the losses of recent years by helping more Democrats in more places run and win.
Right now, Democrats are a powerless majority. In what was supposed to be a year of major pickups for Democrats, 2016 saw Democrats lose the White House and remain in the minority in both the House and Senate. The 2016 election only added to the losses of recent years; since 2009, Democrats have lost 10% of their Senate seats, 20% of their House seats, 35% of their governors, and 20% of their state legislative houses. While Republicans control the governor’s seat and both houses of the state legislature in 26 states, Democrats do so in only 7. We’re focused on legislative districts at the state level and helping candidates get the resources they need to run competitive campaigns.
Why are we focused on state legislative districts? Because the policy choices made by state legislators have a huge impact. Whether you care about
- the economy and creating jobs and ensuring all get a fair chance at opportunity
- education and ensuring high quality, fully-funded schools from cradle to career
- health and expanding access to affordable health coverage
- the environment and fighting climate change and protecting our natural areas
- inclusion and building a society where all can thrive regardless of their background or identity, or all of the above, the legislation that state legislators do – or don’t – enact affects us every single day.
In 2017, states have been fighting back against Donald Trump’s dangerous and divisive agenda. States have banded together to challenge the Trump Administration’s backtracking on climate policy, and state attorneys general have been leading the fight against the Trump Administration travel bans. Others have taken progressive policy into their own hands, like New York’s college scholarship program that provides students from families making $125,000 or less the chance to have tuition-free college at the state’s public colleges and universities. State legislatures give us an opportunity to both combat Trump locally and push a progressive agenda.
Democrats face a daunting, but not insurmountable, challenge in building power back. The good news is that things are looking up. Throughout 2017, Democrats won a slew of state legislative special elections in red areas. In May, a Democrat won a special election for a New York State Assembly district that Trump won handily in November. In July, Democrats had two surprise victories in state legislative special elections in Oklahoma. In September, Democrat Annette Taddeo picked up a Florida State Senate seat from Republicans.
Election Day 2017 was even better. Democrats held all three statewide offices in Virginia, and picked up fifteen state legislative seats – an unprecedented victory. EveryDistrict supported 14 state legislative candidates in Virginia; David Reid, Lee Carter, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Debra Rodman, Cheryl Turpin, Hala Ayala, Elizabeth Guzman, Dawn Adams, Wendy Gooditis, and Kelly Fowler all won their races, and Delegate John Bell was re-elected. Democrats also took back the New Jersey governorship and picked up a State Senate seat in Washington.
As 2017 has shown, Democrats can run competitive campaigns in districts that haven’t been traditional Democratic strongholds. We’re going to continue expanding the map by investing in state legislative races across the county in 2018. We can replicate the success of Virginia in other states in 2018 by following the same path: targeting districts that expand the map, fundraising that invests in local races, and messaging that builds and broadens the Democratic base.
In Virginia, we invested in races that weren’t obvious wins – places that lean more purple and red than blue. We identified our target districts by crunching the numbers and developing a partisan ranking for each House of Delegate district. In 2018, we’ll continue our purple and red district focus, and you can see our target districts on our interactive map. This map – the first of its kind – expands the data work we did in Virginia and shows top pick up opportunities at the state legislative level. This map highlights the districts where we plan to focus our efforts, and the districts that we’ve identified as the top pick up opportunities for Democrats in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Money isn’t everything, but at the local level it can mean the difference between a campaign that can reach its audience and one that can’t. In recent years, Republicans have poured money into local elections, and it’s paid off. In Virginia in 2017, we finally matched Republicans’ investment in local races, and Democrats won big. We had a unique peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that allowed donors to raise money for House of Delegate candidates from their friends and family without having to host an event. In 2018, we’ll be rolling out new tools and fundraising models that will take this campaign nationwide and allow donors to invest directly in state legislative districts in their states.
Democrats have a huge opportunity to take back seats next year, but they need the right message to do it. Post-2016, the party has been in a perpetual debate as to whether to focus on deepening the Democratic bench and expanding outreach to those who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or whether to focus on winning back white voters that have been trending away from the Democratic Party in recent years. We think candidates need to do both, and we’ll work with candidates and campaigns to both deepen and broaden the bench.
Looking to get involved? Sign up for our mailing list to learn how you can help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and make a donation to help us start taking back state legislative seats now.