With the battle for state legislatures taking on an elevated importance during this midterm cycle, a Democratic super PAC is investing more than $20 million in state legislative races, with about 70 percent of the funds going to support candidates in 25 districts across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona.
The investment is from Forward Majority, the super PAC, as Democrats across the country are pouring significant resources into state legislative races. Last month, the States Project, another Democratic super PAC, pledged to spend $60 million in legislative races in five states. And Tech + Campaigns, another Democratic group, has pledged to spend $8 million on such races.
State legislatures have long been dominated by Republicans, who have excelled at motivating their voters to engage beyond federal races. The party made a concerted effort to win state legislatures ahead of the 2010 redistricting cycle and then proceeded to draw gerrymandered legislative maps to help shore up their control. As a result, Republicans have complete control of 29 state legislatures.
But with the Supreme Court set to rule in a case that could give state legislatures nearly unchecked authority over federal elections, Democratic groups have been aggressively playing catch-up, reaching parity with Republicans in television ad spending this year.
Forward Majority, however, is focusing more of its spending on the detailed aspects of campaigning, like voter registration and a tactic known as “boosted news,” or the practice of paying to promote news articles on social media newsfeeds.
The group has been targeting suburban and exurban districts that are split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats with a push to register new Democrats, who may be voters who have moved or who haven’t been engaged in a while, and encourage them to vote on the whole ballot instead of just the top of the ticket.
“Even as we see Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, Gretchen Whitmer win at the top of the ticket, we are still losing those races down-ballot,” said Vicky Hausman, a co-founder of Forward Majority. “So we have been obsessed with finding ways to add additional margin and add additional votes in these races.”
Republicans have noticed the increased investments of Democrats in state legislative races and have sounded the alarm to donors.
“We don’t have the luxury of relying on reinforcements to come save us,” Dee Duncan, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, wrote to donors last month. “We are the cavalry.”
The path for Democrats in Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania is narrow, but Ms. Hausman pointed to the thin margins in recent state legislative battles as an encouraging sign.
“The Virginia House was decided by about 600 votes in 2021,” she said. “The Arizona House came down to about 3,000 votes in two districts in 2020. So it is going to be a dogfight.”
I'm glad Democrats are finally playing hardball, but the time for this was in 2010. Democrats gave away a dozen state legislatures to the GOP to be locked in through permanent gerrymandering in states like Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and if SCOTUS sides on the plenary state legislature theory, you may never see a Democrat win a statewide race or even a House race in those states again, they'll simply be overturned by Republican supermajorities in each state legislature.
We've got one more chance to decide before SCOTUS weighs in.
Vote like your country depends on it.