Democrats launch summer spending blitz highlighting state legislative races

Written by on June 17, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — The presidential election is taking up much of the political oxygen in 2024. But Democrats are urging voters not to forget the importance of state legislative races — and they’re spending big to make sure they don’t.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Democrats’ campaign arm for state legislative races, launched a $10 million spending blitz Monday to boost key state legislative candidates and campaigns across the country, according to plans shared first with ABC News. Dubbed the “Summer of the States” campaign, the investment marks the first time the DLCC is launching a push of this size at this point in an election cycle.

Along with the money, the campaign also includes a microsite that will feature key races to watch and spotlight candidates running in them.

“We’ve definitely seen more interest. We’re having better conversations with folks about how important it is to care about both things, about what is happening in Washington, D.C., and also what is happening in our state houses,” DLCC President Heather Williams told ABC News. “We also know that the value of a campaign dollar at this ballot level in these races goes so much further, and that investment means it just it just means more.”

She added, “We just cannot turn all of our attention to the White House and leave the states unattended.”

Democrats’ investments in state races, which jumped during the Trump administration and have continued to climb since, are a historical shift from the Obama administration and the years before, when the party’s state legislative campaign infrastructure atrophied, leaving Republicans dominating contests for state capitals from coast to coast.

Donald Trump’s win jolted Democrats into investing more into those contests, a trend that was amplified when the Supreme Court scrapped constitutional protections for abortions, leaving state legislatures with immense power over deciding access to the procedure — on top of other Democratic priorities like voting rights and states’ roles in certifying presidential election results.

In a sign of how important the races are now, other Democratic groups are also dumping millions into state legislative races. The States Project, a group affiliated with Democrats and liberal causes, announced last week that it is planning to spend $70 million in legislative races this year. The DLCC’s $10 million summer spending spree is part of its own $60 million budget for 2024, along with the aligned group Forward Majority’s $35 million plan.

Recent spending already showed tangible dividends, with chambers in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania flipping in 2022 after Democrats outspent Republicans.

Williams said spending this year is particularly important given the risk that Republicans can flip the White House and Senate and hold onto the House, a scenario in which Democratic-controlled state legislatures could be a major buffer against a Republican federal trifecta.

“We are entering the true campaign season where voters are going to have to start making choices, and I think it’s critically important they understand that the Republican agenda, which includes rolling back so many of our rights, is going to show up in their state houses, and that caring about what is happening at the top of the ticket is not going to be enough,” she said.

The DLCC’s money will be focused on several states. Some places, like Michigan and Minnesota, have Democratic trifectas that the party is trying to protect. Others, like Arizona and New Hampshire, have a Democratic majority in at least one state legislative chamber within reach. And in others, like Kansas and North Carolina, Democrats are trying to cut into Republicans’ legislative margins enough to deny them a veto-proof supermajority and restore a Democratic governor’s veto power.

The group’s investment is less focused on specific tactics rather than funneling money to campaigns in what Williams called “winning plans.”

“Each state and each program that is going to receive these investments may apply it to different things … so it’ll be sort of across the board, everything from polling and data to paid communication to digital communication, etc.,” she said.

“Because we are a permanent presence in these programs, we are working side by side with the campaigns on the ground to develop really strong campaign plans that we believe in, that they believe in, from start to finish,” Williams added.

The Republican State Leadership Committee — the DLCC’s GOP equivalent — has not yet announced its fundraising goal for 2024. Its president, Dee Duncan, conceded that it and affiliated outside groups aren’t investing in state legislative races like their Democratic counterparts.

“While the constellation of Democrat outside groups will outspend us as usual this year, Republicans are more trusted to solve the most pressing issues facing families, such as the rising cost of living and the border crisis. Our advantage on policy coupled with our strategic early investments, including our historic mail-in voting program in Pennsylvania, have us confident that Republicans are in a strong position to stave off the massive onslaught of money pouring in from the Democrats,” Duncan said in a statement.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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