Don’t take the states for granite

All eyes have turned from Iowa as we wait for the results of the New Hampshire primary today (or maybe one eye is still looking at Iowa as we wait for the final final results?). Either way, today marks another very important step in the presidential nomination process, and at the end of tonight we will (hopefully) have a winner.

While all eyes are on the Granite State tonight, we want to talk about the New Hampshire legislature. While we often focus on the negatives of what’s happening in the states (and how Democratic leadership could make things better), New Hampshire reminds us of how much progress Democrats have made in the states since 2016.

Almost four years ago, on Election Night 2016, the New Hampshire Senate and House remained in GOP hands. Despite Barack Obama winning the state twice (and Hillary Clinton winning it in 2016), the New Hampshire legislature has mostly been GOP-controlled in the past decade. In 2010, both chambers flipped Republican, and despite two years of Democratic control in the House after the 2012 election, the House was otherwise red.

What’s happened in New Hampshire over the last decade has largely been emblematic of what’s happened in the states more broadly. In 2008, the New Hampshire House and Senate were two of the 61 state legislative chambers that Democrats controlled (Republicans controlled 37 chambers and the Montana House was evenly divided). But Democrats saw massive losses in the 2010 election, and Republicans gained the upper hand in the states, controlling 58 chambers to Democrats’ 39 (with two chambers evenly split). 

The losses continued until 2016; after that election, Democratic power reached a low point in the states. Democrats only controlled 30 chambers while Republicans controlled 68 (with the New Hampshire Senate and House in the GOP column). 

But in 2017, things started to change. On Election Day 2017, Manka Dhingra (D) flipped a formerly GOP-held Washington State Senate district blue, winning control of the chamber for Democrats. And while Democrats didn’t flip the Virginia State House, they did flip a whopping 15 seats and come within two seats of taking the chamber. 

The wins continued on Election Night 2018, when Democrats flipped seven chambers: Colorado Senate, New York Senate, Connecticut Senate, Maine Senate, Minnesota House, and the New Hampshire Senate and House (clicking those links will take you to our map pages for those states, and yes, we have mapped the competitiveness of all 400 New Hampshire House districts).

In 2019, the attention that wasn’t focused on the presidential race turned to Virginia, where Democrats only needed to flip two more seats in the House and two seats in the Senate to flip the legislature. On Election Night 2019, Democrats did that and more, flipping six seats in the House and two seats in the Senate to give Democrats the majority in the legislature. EveryDistrict was proud to have invested in all eight of those races, as well as ten key districts Democrats needed to hold, that EveryDistrict’s investments helped to flip in 2017.

The new Democratic majority in Richmond has been a strong reminder of why Democratic control of the states is so important. Since the session kicked off last month, Democrats passed the Equal Rights Amendment, making Virginia the 38th and final state needed for ratification (see this article for a helpful explainer on what this means for final passage of the amendment); are moving quickly to implement gun safety reforms; are working on a number of pro-voter reforms, including early voting, removing the photo ID requirement, and allowing for pre-registration; are repealing draconian anti-choice legislation passed by the formerly GOP-controlled legislature; and working on proposals to increase the minimum wage, given that Virginia’s current minimum wage is the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. The Virginia legislature is also poised to make Virginia the first southern state to pass sweeping LGBTQ rights legislation that would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Democrats had proposed similar legislation in previous years, and even found some GOP support, but Republican leadership had prevented the bills from being considered.

In 2020, we have a huge opportunity to make what’s happening in Virginia right now a reality for 2021 legislative sessions in states across the country. This year, EveryDistrict is investing in 11 states where Democrats are poised to make strong gains in the legislature. Our data work has identified over 200 districts across these 11 states that Democrats can flip from red to blue, with the right resources. You can read more about EveryDistrict’s investments in these 11 states in our previous post here and about our first endorsements of 2020 (in Texas!) here. With victories in the states in 2020, we can remake this country, creating real opportunity for all. 

You can help make sure our endorsed campaigns have the resources they need to win by making a donation to the EveryDistrict 2020 Fund, where 100% of your donation will go to the eventual Democratic nominees in these districts. Click here to donate.