For the Week of 3/9/2018
Democrats in statehouses across the country are fighting to move America forward. In case you missed it, here are some statehouse highlights from this week:
After hours of heated debate, a sharply divided Florida House approved school security and gun restrictions on Wednesday. The legislation allows county school boards to decide whether to enact the guardian program, in cooperation with the local sheriff’s office. Many Democrats criticized the bill for creating a new school guardian program that would lead to the arming of some teachers who volunteer for special training by law enforcement. The National Rifle Association opposes the legislation, mostly because it raises to 21 the age to buy a gun and imposes a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases – a standard now applied only to handguns. The proposal also bans bump stocks, attachments that can turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. The legislation goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who also has aired concerns about the guardian program. Scott has been noncommittal about whether he will sign the legislation into law – or veto it and call lawmakers back into a special session to recast it.
Predictions of a historic wave of female candidates on the ballot in November received an early boost after the nation’s first primary this week in Texas, with a record number of women advancing in congressional and state legislative races. Most of those candidates are Democrats, a national trend fueled largely by frustration over the election of President Donald Trump and actions by his administration and Republicans in Congress on issues such as health care and immigration. Although women represent more than half the American population, they account for just a fifth of all U.S. representatives and senators, and one in four state lawmakers. Democrats in Texas surpassed GOP early voting turnout this year and their own party's numbers during the same period in 2016, a presidential election year where voting numbers are typically much higher, and more than doubled their turnout from the last midterm election in 2014. Democrats are fielding a modern-day record number of candidates across the state. At the state legislative level, Democrats ran candidates in 133 of the 150 state House districts and in 14 of the 15 state Senate districts up for election this year.
After previous attempts were thwarted by Republicans in the state Senate, Washington Democrats used their new majorities in the legislature to pass the Washington Voters Rights Act. Democrats took control of the state Senate last November, when the DLCC helped Senator Manka Dhingra flip LD-45 from red to blue in a critical chamber-control-deciding special election. Since Sen. Dhingra joined the Senate Democratic Caucus, Washington Democrats have been able to make progress on several important bills, including passing legislation to guarantee access to birth control, ban bump stocks, and more. The recently passed Voting Rights Act will help voters elect officials representative of their communities and increase access to the ballot.
Lawsuits challenging partisan redistricting in states are piling up in the nation’s Supreme Court, simultaneously offering multiple opportunities to secure fair representation for voters while also threatening to slow down the court’s decision-making process. It is the hope of the DLCC that these cases – overwhelmingly against Republican-drawn maps – will come to a swift and fair conclusion ahead of 2018 elections and well-before state legislators in 37 states redraw congressional and legislative lines in 2021. Voters in Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and beyond deserve district maps that honor the basic democratic right for voters to pick their representatives – not the other way around. The DLCC will continue to fight to elect Democrats and support efforts to unrig the maps.
In the 95 contested legislative special elections since Trump’s inauguration last January, the DLCC and state Democrats have not only flipped 39 seats from red to blue, we have outperformed in these districts by an average of over 13 points. Furthermore, the states where we have the highest levels of overperformance are some of the reddest in the country – Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama are the top four with the battleground state of Pennsylvania rounding out the top five. Special elections this cycle “are among the clearest portents of a Democratic wave in November,” and the DLCC isn’t taking anything for granted: we are investing early in states, setting up staff and campaign operations in states earlier than ever before, harnessing the surge of Democratic enthusiasm to recruit strong candidates, raising resources in record-breaking levels from our expanding network of grassroots supporters, and more. With more special elections and November races added to DLCC’s Spotlight Races platform every day, check out the page to see where the DLCC will win next.”
- State Democrats to Know in 2018 [DLCC Press Release]
- Flood of legislative candidates points to enthusiasm in both parties [The Hill]
"The level of enthusiasm and engagement we’re seeing in the Democratic Party is unprecedented. With Trump in the White House promoting his toxic vision for the country and Republicans doing little to stand up to him, legislative seats across the nation are flipping from red to blue in astounding numbers. Here in Oregon, our county parties are fired up, and Democrats have a strong field of candidates running in every corner of the state."
-- Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon
With several GOP seats up for grabs this year and low approval ratings for President Trump, Oregon Democrats hope to be the next destination for the blue wave of Democrats taking over state legislative seats around the nation. Democrats need to only hold on to the House and Senate seats they have and turn one Republican seat blue in each chamber to achieve a supermajority. They already have 35 out of 60 seats in the House and 17 out of 30 in the Senate.
3/13/18: ELECTION DAY - Tennessee SD-14 Special Election
3/24/18: ELECTION DAY - Louisiana HD-93 Special Election
3/27/18: ELECTION DAY - Alabama HD-21 Special Election
4/3/18: ELECTION DAY - California HD-39, HD-45, HD-54 Special Elections
4/3/18: ELECTION DAY - Massachusetts HD-02 (Bristol) Special Election
4/3/18: ELECTION DAY - Rhode Island SD-08 Special Election