Last year, Democrats in Virginia showed what can happen when we invest in state legislative races. Democrats picked up a record-breaking 15 seats and fundamentally changed the balance of power in the Virginia legislature, cutting the Republican majority from 34–66 to 49–51.
EveryDistrict supported 14 campaigns, sending 11 elected officials to Richmond to drive forward a new progressive future. Democrats’ success showed the country that Democrats can take back the states, and it gave us a pathway to make an impact this year and beyond.
Earlier this year, we launched the EveryDistrict Nationwide State Competitiveness Map, the Big Map, that shows every state legislative district in the country, ranked on a partisan scale. Each state legislative district has been given a “Legislative District Index” score on a scale from 100 to -100. The more positive the number, the more Democratic leaning the district is. The more negative the number, the more Republican leaning the district is.
We built this map to make it easier for you to get involved in local races in your community, no matter where you live. We also built this map to help us better understand where Democrats have the best chance of winning back the majority in state legislatures, so we can best target our resources.
Today, we’re announcing our first round of endorsements in three of our target states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. Read on for more information on why we chose these states and candidates, and what you can do to help them win.
From our map, we’ve identified over 400 state legislative seats that lean Democratic, but are held by Republicans. But even if Democrats won back all of those seats, we still couldn’t fundamentally alter the balance of power in state legislatures across the country.
Democrats have to compete in the purple-to-red districts that are key to winning back state legislatures. And that’s where we focus our efforts. In all the states we’ll be working in this year, there are some Democratic-leaning districts, but Democrats will need to win in Republican territory to take back the majority.
Ohio State Senate
In presidential contests, Ohio is a true purple state. George W. Bush won the state twice, Barack Obama won the state twice, and Donald Trump won in 2016. But on the state level, Ohio has been a Republican trifecta, with Republicans controlling the Governorship and both houses of the state legislature, for most of the last three decades.
Republicans have controlled the Ohio State Senate since 1992, and they currently have a 24 to 9 majority. Since 1992, Republicans have controlled the State House for all but 5 years, and they currently have a 65 to 33 majority (with one vacancy). These large majorities have given Republicans substantial power to push an ultra-conservative agenda in the Buckeye State.
To take back the majority, Democrats need to pick up 8 seats in the State Senate. Only half of the Senate is up (odd-numbered districts), but Democrats have five winnable districts on the ballot this year. EveryDistrict has endorsed candidates in four of those districts: Paul Bradley, Lauren Friedman, Sharon Sweda, and Louise Valentine.
Michigan State Senate
Trump’s 10,000-vote victory in Michigan in 2016 broke a streak of Democratic victories in presidential elections back to 1992.
On the state level, though, Democrats have long ceded power to Republicans. Republicans have controlled the State Senate since 1990, and seen larger gains in recent years. In 2010, Republicans gained 5 seats, controlling the Senate 26 to 11. In 2014, they gained another seat and currently control the Senate 27 to 10. Democrats have only controlled the Michigan State House for 6 of the last 26 years. Republicans currently hold a 63 to 47 majority there. Michigan is a Republican trifecta state, with Republicans controlling the Governorship and both houses of the state legislature. This year, however, there are meaningful opportunities for Democrats to win back power.
To take back the majority, Democrats need to pick up 9 seats in the State Senate. Michigan State Senate seats are on the ballot every four years, so all State Senate seats are on the ballot this year. EveryDistrict has endorsed Rosemary Bayer, Winnie Brinks, Scott Dianda, Sean McCann, Mallory McMorrow, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, and Henry Yanez.
Unlike Ohio and Pennsylvania, who have already held their primaries, Michigan’s primary isn’t until August 7. Be on the lookout for more Michigan endorsements from EveryDistrict after the primary.
Pennsylvania State House
While many might think of Pennsylvania as a blue state, Donald Trump’s victory punched a hole in the “blue wall” that Pennsylvania once represented. But on the state level, Republicans have long been influential. Republicans have controlled the State Senate since 1994, and currently have a 33 to 16 majority (with one vacancy). With the exception of a four-year period from 2007 to 2011, Republicans have controlled the State House since 1995, and currently have a 121 to 82 majority. These large majorities have given Republicans substantial power to push a destructive agenda in the Keystone State.
Despite Republican’s longtime control of the State House, Democrats have a substantial opportunity to retake the chamber in 2018. To do so, Democrats need to win 20 State House seats. Our LDI shows that there are 18 seats held by Republicans that lean Democratic and another 15 that lean slightly Republican. We’re focusing on the districts in the middle — the purple-to-red districts that will be key for winning the 20 seats necessary for a majority. EveryDistrict has endorsed Amy Cozze, Lauren Lareau, Jennifer O’Mara, Mary Popovich, Sara Johnson Rothman, Kara Scott, Melissa Shusterman, Patty Smith, Byron Timmins, Joseph Webster, and Claudette Williams.
How You Can Help
We believe that, to win at the local level, Democrats need the dollars that will allow them to compete against the GOP Big Money that took over our states in the first place.
To combat this, and to help our candidates get the resources they need to win, we’re recruiting people like you to become fundraising champions.
Becoming a fundraising champion is not about being a big donor. It’s about donating at a level you’re comfortable with — and then organizing your friends to do the same. And, if your friends are inspired to do the same, and some of their friends are also motivated, you can help make a sizeable investment in a state legislative campaign.
That’s how we beat big money. With your help. And we help you along the way. Fundraising champions receive support from our professional team to raise money over a 6–8 week sprint. Every step of the way, we provide advice, guidance, and the tools you need to succeed. To sign up today, click here.
Then, sign up for our email list, and send us an email to let us know what you’re seeing on the ground in your community. The way we take back power is by building a movement of people working together to change the balance of power in state legislatures across the country. Join us.