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Inside DLCC's Plan for November Statehouse Victories

Inside DLCC's Plan for November Statehouse Victories

TO:               Interested Parties
FROM:         Jessica Post, DLCC Executive Director
RE:               2016 Down-ballot Democratic Strategy Memo
DATE:          September 22, 2016

With the general election fully under way, the final shapes of state legislative races across the country are solidifying, and Democrats are poised for success in statehouses nationwide in November. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump is compounding down-ballot Republicans’ existing challenges of overcoming increased voter turnout, lack of viability among key voting blocs, and general toxicity of the GOP brand. As a result, DLCC considers 14 chambers as key pickup opportunities for Democrats, and we expect to flip 8 – 12 of them to Democratic majorities this fall.

  • Strong, presidential-year turnout will aid Democrats nationwide.
    • Most of DLCC’s targeted chambers are presidential battleground states, including Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

    • Democrats at all levels of the ballot will benefit from presidential election-year turnout, and DLCC is maximizing those efforts through the Grassroots Victory Program. Through GVP, hundreds of field organizers are trained and deployed in key states across the country, and they will be responsible for millions of voter contact attempts through election day.

  • Democratic and Latino voter registration is climbing in key states
  • DLCC also employs specific programs designed to help Democratic state legislative candidates win elections and chamber majorities in both the short and long term. These programs are key to DLCC’s success in each election cycle, and they position Democrats to take full advantage of opportunities including, but not limited to, the “Trump effect” this year. These efforts include
    • Both short- and long-term strategy and targeting,

    • The training and deployment of grassroots organizers, and

    • Innovative data tools that help each caucus and campaign maximize resources on the ground.
       

    These factors will help DLCC take full advantage of the opportunity to win majorities in the following chambers.
     

TARGETED CHAMBERS

  • ARIZONA SENATE (12D/18R)
    • Latino registration is spiking this cycle, thanks to unprecedented voter registration efforts

    • The late primary saw one GOP incumbent unseated in a swing district and a number of strong Democratic candidates emerge in DLCC’s top targets

  • COLORADO SENATE (17D/18R)
    • We’re only one seat down, and the map provides several promising targets for pickups this year.

    • After last fall’s stunning school board recall elections, Democrats have seen a surge in enthusiasm in suburban Jefferson County, home to endangered Republican Senator Laura Woods and one of Democrats’ top targets.

    • Democrats are out-raising Republicans by a significant margin.

  • IOWA HOUSE (43D/57R)
    • Nationally, Democrats are targeting two competitive congressional districts as pick-up opportunities in this presidential battleground state, and Sen. Chuck Grassley faces a more credible opponent than he has in in many years.

    • Republicans also have to protect five Republican open seats that Obama won in 2012, while Democrats have minimal protection concerns.

    • Several targeted swing districts are suburban and home to highly-educated, middle-income families -- a voting bloc that has been skeptical of Donald Trump.

  • MAINE SENATE (15D/20R)
    • Senate Democrats must pick up three seats, but they have five pick-up opportunities where President Obama received at least 55% in 2012.

    • The state's Democratic House and Senate campaign committees have raised nearly twice as much money as their GOP counterparts this cycle.

    • GOP Gov. Paul LePage’s bigoted, racially-charged comments and erratic behavior have damaged the Republican brand in the state

  • MICHIGAN HOUSE (46D/63R/1v)
    • Because of term limits, Republicans have more open House seats than Democrats -- 25 to 13, respectively. Democrats' highly successful recruiting efforts produced a quality crop of candidates emerged in many of those open seats.

    • Some of the tea party Republicans who won their primaries in more moderate districts created opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats that might not otherwise have been in play.

    • Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's approval rating is at an all-time low.

    • A recent court decision overturning the GOP-supported ban on straight-ticket voting in the state spells even bigger problems for down-ballot Republicans.

  • MINNESOTA HOUSE (61D/73R)
    • Since the GOP wave of 2014, Republicans currently hold several seats that traditionally perform well for Democrats. Select suburban and small-city seats are also being targeted.

    • GOP state House members have attempted to pass a series of ultra-conservative measures in recent years – everything from “right to work” to anti-LGBT legislation to voter ID bills.

  • NEVADA ASSEMBLY (17D/21R/1O)
    • Democrats are almost entirely on offense this cycle and are poised to gain seats but need to win six of ten competitive races to flip the chamber.

    • Democrats have at least seven prime pickup opportunities in districts where Obama won more than 51% of the vote -- and Democrats only need five seats to return to the majority.

    • New Democratic voter registrations are vastly outpacing new Republican registrations.

  • NEVADA SENATE (10D/11R)
    • Democratic voter registration in the state grew dramatically after the presidential caucus, and the current electoral climate, the party’s high-quality slate of candidates, and Democratic strength at all levels of the ticket will return Democrats to the majority.

    • Democrats only need to flip one seat to flip this chamber.

    • Polling in top targeted districts reveal a clear path to victory here.

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE HOUSE (160D/235R/5v)
    • Democrats are fielding candidates in 361 of the state's 400 House districts; Republicans have candidates in just 335.

    • Republicans were already struggling with the retirement of more than 60 incumbents.

    • Democratic fundraising is consistently outpacing Republican fundraising – in August, Democrats had record-breaking cash on hand amounts.

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE (10D/14R)
    • A wave of Senate Republican retirements (six GOP incumbents) give Senate Democrats a great opportunity this cycle.

    • These newly-open districts are true swing districts, and Democrats are fielding strong candidates in each.

    • The Democratic Senate campaign committee reported strong fundraising numbers this summer and entered August with record-breaking cash on hand amounts.

  • NEW MEXICO HOUSE (33D/37R)
    • Democrats only need to pick up three seats to flip the majority from Republicans

    • Republicans currently occupy nine districts President Obama won in 2012.

    • Voter registration is surging dramatically this year, especially in key targeted districts.

  • NEW YORK SENATE (27D/31R/5IDC)
    • President Obama won over 55% in five Republican-held seats on the ballot this fall, and we believe we can flip them.

    • Democrats are fielding their strongest slate of candidates in many cycles.

    • Polling indicates that Trump is a particularly strong drag on GOP state Senate candidates here.

  • WASHINGTON SENATE (23D/26R*)
    • Democrats had great success in recruiting this year, and several districts that favored Obama in 2012 are in play.

    • Last month’s primary results showed Democrats running very strong in key suburban swing seats.

  • WEST VIRGINIA SENATE(16D/18R)
    • Democrats have only a one-seat deficit here, and we have identified several pickup opportunities.

    • Voters in the state are already expressing dissatisfaction with some of the right-wing policies the new GOP majority rammed through since coming to power, including a so-called “right to work” law.

EXPANSION TARGETS

Additionally, key strategic investments and on-the-ground organizing will enable Democrats to break GOP supermajorities and make notable progress in our long-term strategies to flip the majorities in the following states:

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Indiana

  • North Carolina

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • Missouri

  • Wisconsin

 

DLCC TARGETED CHAMBERS

 

DLCC INITIATIVES

The DLCC’s 2016 Democratic Majorities Project targets Democrats’ high-priority legislative chambers in this fall’s elections. This project is the focal point of DLCC’s efforts to protect key majorities and flip Republican-controlled chambers by marshalling resources effectively and using data-driven analysis and targeting to win crucial districts in each state. We work with partners in each state to identify which races are key to determining control of each chamber and identify and remedy any gaps in campaign strategies, and then we work to ensure key components of these strategies are funded -- from field, targeting, and direct mail to polling and general campaign services.

Advantage 2020 manifests the DLCC’s long-term commitment to positioning Democrats for success in the post-2020 redistricting process. This project executes a multi-cycle strategy through state-specific plans to win state legislative majorities in targeted chambers. Through data-driven analysis and careful planning, Advantage 2020 is strengthening Democrats’ capacity to prevent Republican gerrymanders across the country for the decade to come. Targeted states include Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Grassroots Victory Program is DLCC’s national field operation that arms in-state organizers with the skills, training, and technology needed to run winning grassroots outreach campaigns. Now in its third cycle, GVP not only equips campaigns with well-trained professional field staff, but the program also builds a culture of state legislative organizing that continues to grow through future elections and ensures legislative candidates connect with voters. GVP operated in 37 chambers in 2014, and GVP organizers and volunteers accounted for almost 11 million voter contact attempts.

DLCC has recently launched SCOUT (Securing Chamber OUTcomes), an innovative and groundbreaking data project developed by DLCC in partnership with leading data analytics providers. SCOUT provides DLCC and its partners with cutting-edge statistical tools to analyze every legislative district in the country and identify opportunities in real time. Additionally, the experts on the DLCC political team use their expertise and institutional knowledge of key legislative chambers to implement proven strategies informed by these tools.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is the only organization exclusively committed to winning Democratic majorities and building Democratic power in state legislatures. We equip legislative caucus campaign programs to win elections by providing campaign services through a continuing partnership with legislative leaders, professional staff, and supporters. DLCC spending priorities are focused on legislative seats and chambers where we can impact Democratic majority status in the current election cycle.