Democrats Set Ambitious Spending Plan for State Legislative Races

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The Democratic Party’s organization that focuses on state legislative races is planning its largest campaign budget ever as it seeks to flip five chambers in three critical swing states, as well as defend three recently earned majorities, according to a memo of the group’s 2024 strategy obtained by The New York Times.

The group, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, plans to target Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislatures in Arizona and New Hampshire, as well as the Pennsylvania Senate. And it will seek to defend razor-thin house majorities in Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

The budget — at least $60 million — underscores the importance of state legislatures. Once dismissed as mere policy laboratories, they have become arbiters of many of the nation’s most pressing political debates.

The D.L.C.C. has been clear that its final spending will depend on its ability to raise money in a presidential election year, and that it has not yet reached the $60 million goal.

For much of the past decade, Democrats played catch-up with Republicans, who invested significantly more resources into state-level races and were able to control the 2010 redistricting cycle. Republican-controlled legislatures then drew gerrymandered maps in critical swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that helped lock in Republican power.

But since the 2020 election, Democrats have won a series of statewide victories, at least in part because issues like abortion access and voting rights are governed not by a deadlocked U.S. Congress but by state legislatures.

Still, even with Democrats’ recent successes, Republicans continue to hold an overall legislative advantage, controlling 57 chambers to the Democrats’ 41.

The fall of Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court in 2022 “really shed light on how important state legislatures are and how impactful they are,” said Heather Williams, the committee’s president.

The D.L.C.C.’s road map further crystallizes which states the Democrats believe will be pivotal to the 2024 election, such as Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Michigan. And it reveals some of the states that they think could become battlegrounds, like North Carolina and Minnesota.

The group was buoyed last year by record-breaking fund-raising for an off year, taking in more than $21 million. Such a pace, the organization says, puts it on track to raise more than the $60 million target.

The Republican State Legislative Committee released its targets for 2024 last summer, seeking to defend both chambers of the legislatures in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire and Texas, as well as the Pennsylvania Senate. The organization is also seeking to flip both chambers in Michigan and Minnesota, as well as the Pennsylvania House.

The R.S.L.C. did not immediately respond to requests for comment about its budget for 2024 and about whether any of its targets have changed since last year.

For a few years now, new investment from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the emergence of the States Project, a liberal group dedicated solely to state legislatures, have largely eclipsed Republican spending in the states. In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats spent roughly $30 million more than Republicans on television advertising, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm. Such advantages allowed Democrats to play offense in deeply red states, seeking to break up Republican supermajorities in states with Democratic governors.

In a presidential year, when ad rates soar as tens of millions of dollars flow into campaigns and super PACs, the Democrats are planning to get out ahead of the crush on the airwaves.

“In an environment where people are kind of generally frustrated with the inaction in Congress and the gridlock and the sort of politicking that’s happening there,” Ms. Williams said, “making sure that that story is told before the airwaves get so crowded, and before people are just so over the election, will be part of the plan.”

Most of the Democrats’ recent gains will be top targets for Republicans in 2024. Multiple chambers that Democrats won in 2022 are held by single-digit margins; both the Pennsylvania and Michigan houses are held by a single vote. The Minnesota House rests on just six votes. The D.L.C.C. has identified all three chambers as priorities.

Guarding such slim majorities is a tall task, but Ms. Williams said drawing contrasts with other states was one way to drive home the stakes for the Democrats’ targeted voters.

“Do you want to be a Florida, or do you want to be a Michigan?” she said. “Those are a pretty clear contrast.”



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