A Democratic-aligned group is investing nearly $60 million in state legislative races in five states, a significant sum in an often overlooked political arena where Democrats have struggled for decades.
The group, the States Project, said it was focusing on flipping a single seat in the Arizona state Senate that could swing it to Democratic control and on winning back both chambers of the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures. The group also aims to defend Democratic majorities in Maine and Nevada.
The large infusion of cash from the States Project amounts to a recognition of the critical role that state legislatures play in U.S. politics, orchestrating policy on abortion access, what can be taught in schools and other issues that animate voters. In every state except Minnesota, Virginia and Alaska, a single party controls both chambers.
This is a baby step, but one that is needed. $60M Ameros might not seem like much, but millions of buck for a state district race could be decisive. And here’s the way to think about why this is important: a red state legislature could pass a resolution that a presidential election is only advisory, and the legislature —NOT the voters— picks the presidential electors. So I think you can see what The States Project is trying to do.
Next year, the Supreme Court could give the legislative bodies yet more power if it endorses a theory, often called independent state legislature doctrine, that would give state legislatures nearly unchecked authority over elections. Left-leaning groups like the States Project argue that state legislative contests this year in several key battlegrounds could have an outsize impact on future elections.
“The alarm bells are ringing in our state legislatures,” said Adam Pritzker, a founder of the States Project and a Democratic donor. “With the rise of the Tea Party and the balance of power dramatically shifting toward the right, the rest of us have been asleep at the wheel for too long at the state level. And now this threat is truly off the charts.”
What The States Project has been doing is giving money to Democratic candidates in seats that look flippable and letting the candidates decide how best to use the funds. This lets the candidates spend more time meeting voters, instead of woo’ing donors. It might actually work.
And, if it works in these 5 states, please take this program to all 50 States.