Purple States Report: A Plan to Win the States

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Published September 2019

Introduction and Executive Summary

The future of the Democratic Party’s policymaking power depends on winning the states. We live in a fundamentally state-based country. The states determine the winner of the Electoral College, the composition of the Senate, and the district lines of the House of Representatives. They are also where much of the policy in this country is made, particularly as Congress remains dysfunctional. And the shocking reality for Democrats is that we are far behind in the states, holding only 37 state legislative chambers to Republicans’ 61 across the country. If we want to shape the future of the states, and therefore the nation, we have work to do.

In 2017, EveryDistrict was founded to rebuild the states from the ground up. Since that time, we have endorsed 75 candidates running to flip GOP-held state legislative districts and raised over $500,000 to support our endorsed candidates. Our support has helped to flip 37 battleground state legislative districts from red to blue.

Building on our work over the past two years, this report lays out what Democrats need to do to win back the states in 2019 and 2020. Democrats have a once-in-a-decade chance to advance Democratic power and policy over these next two years. If we fail, we cede tremendous power to Republicans throughout the 2020s to remake the country in their radical image. Voting rights, gerrymandering, gun safety, equality, economic opportunity, and access to healthcare—they are all on the ballot in the states in 2019 and 2020.

Despite the emergence of several organizations interested in electing Democrats to state legislatures, Democrats still need to lay out a cohesive national strategy to build electoral power at the state legislative level. There is no good list of target districts and strategic organizing opportunities for activists and donors interested in fundamentally reshaping this country. There is no common understanding of the competitiveness and demographic profiles of the key districts. There is still insufficient commitment to resolving the severe structural deficit that Democratic candidates face in running for state legislatures. As NBC News reported recently, Democratic money has not yet made the necessary investments for the future.

EveryDistrict is proud to use this, our Purple States Action Plan, to change the conversation and lay out the most competitive districts across the country that will need to be on Democrats’ radar in 2019 and 2020. This report builds on our existing first-of-its-kind nationwide interactive map of competitive state legislative districts. It gives donors and activists a clear roadmap with which to act. We focus in on 28 chambers in purple states, the states at the center of the battle for control of this country.

If we work strategically and efficiently to win back the country, we can pick up 11 state legislative chambers in 2019 and 2020, defeat a GOP supermajority in 4, and make substantial gains in 13 more. This report identifies the approximately 240 critical state legislative seats in all 28 of these chambers and groups them based on both competitiveness and demographics into distinct categories to help focus donor attention and resources. Among these districts, there are 110 priority seats in the 15 power-shifting chambers that will also be emphasized throughout the report. These priority districts represent the districts that are most winnable in the chambers where victory means a significant shift in political power in 2019 or 2020.

What is most exciting about what is contained in this report is this: despite GOP efforts to limit democracy in the states through gerrymandering and voter ID laws, Democrats have a huge opportunity to fight back in 2019 and 2020. The 16 states in this report include both states where Democrats are emerging and states where Democrats are rebuilding the blue wall. Our focus in this report is to concentrate resources on the winnable districts in these states.

To download the full report, click here.