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TIME Makes it Clear: Democracy Is On the Line in 2020

TIME Makes it Clear: Democracy Is On the Line in 2020

ICYMI — With redistricting on the horizon, the battle for state legislatures in 2019 and 2020 will determine the course of American democracy for the next decade. A recent TIME magazine piece spotlights the work of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and President Jessica Post in the battle for control of state legislatures, elections that have a dramatic impact on politics at all levels of the ballot.

“State legislatures are the building blocks of our democracy,” Post tells TIME during a break from candidate calls in the DLCC office five blocks from the White House. “It’s a level of the ballot that’s been forgotten. But state legislators draw the lines, so control of Congress in many ways is decided by rules put together in state legislatures.”

After seeing the havoc precipitated by Republican control during the last redistricting cycle in 2010, Democrats are more committed than ever to flipping state chambers. Under Post’s leadership, the DLCC has tripled its staff and is preparing to spend $50 million this cycle, five times the amount it invested in 2010.

Post, a meticulous Missouri native who previously held top roles at Emily’s List and the DLCC, rejoined the group in 2016 with a mandate to reverse the slide. [...] Democrats stand to pick up majorities in seven chambers–including those in Minnesota, Arizona and Virginia–if they can win 19 specific races.

The DLCC’s robust resources have allowed it to make early investments in target states, helping state partners to outraise and outorganize Republicans. The committee recently completed a $1 million investment in Virginia, where 2019 legislative elections will be the first test of the cycle. Democrats need to flip just two seats in both chambers to win control of the legislature for the first time in two decades, and the GOP has fallen far behind in fundraising and grassroots enthusiasm.

The Democrats can afford pricey TV ads because they’ve been chipping away at the GOP’s longtime financial advantage in the states. The three major Democratic committees in Virginia have already spent $2 million, compared with just a quarter of that invested by their GOP counterparts.

Democrats’ increased engagement has Republicans scrambling, struggling to defend their narrow majorities in Virginia and worried about saving legislators in states like Texas and Georgia next year. Austin Chambers and the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) are sounding the alarm, worried that Republicans won’t be able to rig politics for the next decade.

Chambers has been warning donors that Post’s efforts cannot be written off, lest Republicans suffer the way their opponents have at the state level. “What happens in a few state legislative races over the next year and a half will determine the balance of Congress for at least the next decade or longer,” Chambers says. “The importance of this cannot be overstated. It’s as serious as anything we’ve ever faced.”

Republican power in the state and in Washington is a reality only because they’ve tried to draw themselves into permanent majorities to insulate them from the voters that reject their radical agenda. The DLCC and Democrats are doing everything to make sure that doesn’t happen again. 

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