Democrats target GOP extremists as they look to build power in state legislatures

For too long, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee was overlooked by the party apparatus and the donor class, which were more focused on presidential and congressional elections than on races for state legislatures.

But that has changed in recent years, and after flipping several key state legislative chambers in 2022 and 2023, the DLCC is entering the 2024 campaign with a war chest of nearly $60 million, compared to $15 million in 2016, according to the DLCC’s new president, Heather Williams.

The DLCC spent some of that money already in 2023 in the November election in Virginia, where Democrats, emphasizing protecting abortion rights, flipped control of the House of Delegates and maintained their Senate majority. In the process, they thwarted Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to impose a radical Republican agenda.

In an article for Democracy Docket, Williams touts 2024 as “the year of the states,” calling state legislative races “the Democrats’ secret weapon” for the upcoming election.

“We’ve made significant progress over the last decade, putting Democrats back in control of 41 chambers nationwide — many of them in states we would expect to be solidly blue on a presidential map,” Williams writes. “We now have momentum to push into battleground states, and our target map outlines our strategy to make gains and solidify power in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These fights will be our toughest yet, but we’re laser-focused.”

The DLCC also wants to chip away at Republican majorities in the Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin state legislatures, as well as the Georgia House. This is especially important in swing states like Wisconsin and North Carolina in order to give Democratic governors the power to veto extreme Republican legislation.

Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the “DLCC is proud to be the first organization on the ground in Wisconsin, investing early in the most important level of the ballot.”

“These early investments are multipliers, building the infrastructure and operations that will win these races in November,” she added.

That early investment could yield results because the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week overturned the heavily gerrymandered Republican-drawn legislative maps and ordered that new district boundary lines be drawn as Democrats had urged in a redistricting case.

Nearly a year out from the election, Democrats shouldn’t be obsessed with bleak polling results about the horse race for the White House, according to Williams.

When we focus on the data points that matter — actual election results, instead of polling — Democrats are in a strong position in 2024,” she writes. “At the ballot level closest to the people, voters are recognizing and choosing Democrats’ vision for the future over the increasingly extreme politics of the Republican Party.”

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