From Progress to Power: How Democrats Regain the States in 2020 Part 3
Part 3- Gaining Power in 2019 and 2020
In Part 1 of our series of coverage counting down to 500 days, we talked about where Democrats made gains in 2018. In Part 2, we presented the results of the survey of our 2018 candidates and what steps Democrats need to take to better support state legislative candidates in 2020. Today, as we mark 500 days to Election Day 2020, we’re focusing on the future.
Today marks 500 days to Election Day 2020. Only 500 more days until Trump is on the ballot again and we have the chance to vote him out.
But Trump isn’t the only one on the ballot in 2020: “Trumpism” is also on the ballot. After the “red wave” in 2010, we got a preview of Trumpism: complete disregard for norms and rules as evidenced through the GOP’s brazen gerrymandering tactics; attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through numerous votes in Congress, lawsuits, and the refusal to expand Medicaid; voter suppression from strict voter ID laws; and an extreme, conservative agenda on everything from drastic tax cuts, to denying climate change, and restricting a woman’s right to choose.
If we’re going to truly set the country in a new direction, we also have to defeat Trumpism as well, and we do that by starting in the states. In 2019 and 2020, Democrats can win 12 chambers and make serious dents in 13 more. We can do that by raising enough money to help 220 candidates flip these states.
Despite gaining over 300 state legislative seats since 2016, Democrats have not seen a dramatic power shift: Democrats still only control 37 state legislative chambers to Republicans’ 61. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature in 18 states, while Republicans do so in 30 states.
In 2019 and 2020, Democrats have the chance to dramatically shift the balance of power in the states. This matters not only for state-level policy — like the spate of “heartbeat” bills we’ve seen introduced and passed in multiple states this year — but also for national power. In states across the country, legislators elected in 2020 will draw district lines for the next ten years, not only for their districts but for congressional districts. If Democrats want to maintain their congressional majority, they need a seat at the table when the lines are being drawn. State-level policy also matters for the presidential election. Republican-enacted voter ID laws depressed turnout in key swing states in the 2016 presidential election. More states under Democratic control would also provide more opportunities to expand the number of states participating in the National Popular Vote compact (where states agree to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote once the compact reaches 270 electoral votes). With Oregon joining in June 2019, there are now 196 votes between the 16 states in the compact. If we miss our opportunity over the next 500 days, we will lose the states — and therefore control of the future of this country — for another decade.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the purple states, where our data work shows a path for Democrats to significantly shift the balance of power. Across the thousands of legislative districts nationwide, all that we need to do is flip 220 districts across these 14 states. We’ve crunched the numbers for 2020 to show you what Democrats need to do to flip these states. Click on a state to see exactly which districts present the best pick up opportunities.
You can make a difference right now by donating to our 2020 fund, which will support candidates in these districts in 2020. You can also multiply your impact by becoming a Fundraising Champion and helping us raise funds for these candidates. For the latest updates, make sure to sign up for our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.
If Democrats only win seats that lean Democratic over the next two years, we are likely to pick up only three chambers. In each of these chambers, Democrats only need to win a few Democratic-leaning seats to do so. In each of these states, we’ve seen strong trends in the Democratic direction over the past two years and Democrats have a number of seats they can compete in for the majority.
In these chambers, Democrats need to win a decent number of seats, and they need to compete in mostly Democratic-leaning seats to do so. Heading into the 2018 election, Democrats faced big deficits in each chamber but made good progress in 2018, netting five seats in the Iowa House, five seats in the Michigan House, and 11 seats in the Pennsylvania House. While Democrats need to flip more Republican-leaning seats in Michigan, Democratic challengers came very close to winning a number of these seats in 2018 despite their Republican leanings.
We’ve put these chambers in the lean Republican territory because while there is a path for Democrats to flip these chambers, it requires competing in fairly Republican territory (districts above R+5). But, given previous Democratic performance in the states we think that these are chambers Democrats can flip with the right resources.
While Democrats didn’t make any gains in the Arizona Senate in 2018, another 3,723 votes, representing less than 1% of all votes cast, would have given them the chamber. In the Arizona House, Democrats flipped four seats in 2018 and only need to flip two more to take the chamber in 2020. Democrats face a larger deficit in the Iowa Senate — eight seats — but they can get there by winning several slightly Republican-leaning seats.
In Pennsylvania, the odd numbered districts will be on the ballot in 2020, and of those, Democrats could mount competitive campaigns in four. Though it required winning in Republican-favored territory, Pam Iovino won a special election in April 2019 in a R+8 district.
While Beto O’Rouke didn’t defeat Ted Cruz in 2018, the results in the Texas House were a bright spot for Democrats. Democrats flipped 12 seats, and O’Rourke won in another nine districts currently held by Republicans, giving Democrats a path to flipping the chamber in 2020.
The Michigan Senate is not supposed to be on the ballot in 2020 (Senators serve four-year terms and all districts were on the ballot in 2018), but a gerrymandering case could change that. As of now, several affected districts would be on the ballot in 2020, giving Democrats a chance to flip the chamber. We’ll be closely monitoring the case over the next few months.
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These districts are in the Likely Republican category because of the number of districts Democrats need to flip in these chambers and the number of Republican-leaning seats Democrats need to win in each of these chambers. And if Democrats invest in the states in the same way they did in 2018, these chambers will stay controlled by Republicans.
EveryDistrict’s data analysis shows a path to flipping most of these chambers in 2020, but it will require a significant investment of resources and new strategies to convince voters in these Republican-leaning districts to vote for Democratic candidates. Below, we talk a little bit more about each chamber.
In the Florida House and Wisconsin House, Democrats have a clearer path to the majority, albeit one that requires winning a significant number of districts in the R+5 to R+10 range.
In the Florida Senate, Montana Senate, and Ohio Senate there are paths to the majority, but it will be a multi-year project given that only half of the districts are on the ballot in 2020. However, it will be critical for Democrats to win these competitive seats in 2020 to ensure Democrats are in a position to flip these chambers in 2022.
That leaves the following chambers: Georgia Senate, Georgia House, North Carolina Senate, North Carolina House, Ohio House, West Virginia Senate, and Wisconsin Senate. In these places, Democrats need to win seats that rank above an R+10 to flip the chamber. In many of these places, like Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia, Democrats made strong gains in the legislature in 2018 in challenging districts like the ones needed to win in 2020. These chambers aren’t out of reach for Democrats, but it will require significant investment and new approaches to convince Republican-leaning voters to vote for a Democrat.