Monday, September 21, 2020

The Country's Political Future Runs Through State Legislative Elections



In Florida, the Republicans have pretty close to a one-party state government. Ron DeSantis is the most disliked governor in America, but he's still the governor (and not up for reelection in November). The state House has 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats. The state Senate has 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats. The state House is going to need concerted Democratic effort for several cycles to flip it. The Florida Democratic Party is just not capable of that and is, in fact, worse than useless. Democrats would have a better chance to flip seats if the state party ceased to exist. The Senate looks more promising, right? 40 seats... just flip 3 and it's a 20-20 power-sharing tie. Flip 4 and Florida is no longer a one-party state. But there's a problem-- his name is Gary Farmer and he's a hack politician from a deep blue district in Broward County. He's slated to be Minority Leader in 2021 and desperately does not want to be Majority Leader. So he has made sure the state party is only targeting two seats. That guarantees the GOP maintains their dominance. Gary Farmer likes being dominated.

Maybe if they targeted 5 or 6 seats, they could win 3 or 4. Imagine that! It would be enough to stop the Republican decennial gerrymander plan in its tracks. The party is forever whining they have no money. Why should anyone give them any. They suck! I bet if they made a real concerted effort to win the Senate back, they'd be flooded with contributions.

A Florida political expert told me that the map drawing "will go like last time. The Senate GOP will try to gerrymander, the House GOP may or may not go along with it, and the Florida Supreme Court will end up deciding it, as it has the right to do."

Bob Lynch, the Democrat running for the Miami-Dade swing district held by Daniel Perez put the problem very clearly. "There is no other state and no other major county that has Republican leadership on down the line. We are also quickly approaching 14 thousand dead Floridians. Coupled with the disastrous unemployment system, and refusal to take the Medicaid expansion in the middle of a Pandemic and there has never been a better time for Democrats to compete for every seat. With the Census and redistricting coming up, we cannot afford to ignore any race. Any seat could be the difference between Florida being under Republican control or us having a say for the next decade. Investing in my race not only makes sense given the dynamics of my district, but it also forces my opponent to play defense and ties up resources. This is a pure return on investment for minimal capital play. One we can repeat all over the state if Democrats decide they really want to compete. So far that seems unclear."

Nationally, the DLCC-- Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee-- (and its National Democratic Redistricting Committee) aren't doing a bad job-- certainly much better than the Florida Democratic Party is. Their top targets appear to be chambers in North Carolina, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa and... not the most obviously flippable chamber of all-- the Florida state Senate. After Farmer failed to recruit Alex Sink to run in the 20th SD, he refused to back Kathy Lewis, a black woman who nearly ousted Tom Lee, the incumbent, in 2018, with no help from the Democratic Party. Now Lee is gone and Lewis-- with all that name recognition-- is up against a right-wing extremist. She would be the tie vote. But Farmer refuses to budge and just threatens, bullies, and blusters.

What can gerrymandering by state legislatures accomplish? Well, in 2012, House Democratic candidates won 59.6 million votes-- 1.4 million more than did House Republicans. But Republicans won 234 seats in Congress, compared with 201 Democrats. There are state legislative elections in 43 states this year-- for 86 chambers. Republicans are playing defense and worry about toxicity at the top of the ticket. Will an anti-Trump wave turn into an anti-Republican wave that wipes out scores of political careers across the nation?

Next year 17 states are using bi-partisan redistricting commissions instead of state legislatures to redraw the post-census maps:
Iowa (although the state legislature gets to approve or reject it)
New Jersey
New York (although, like Iowa, the state legislature gets to approve or reject it)
Ohio (a new plan that is probably unworkable)
Pennsylvania (for the state legislature-- which still draws the congressional districts)
Vermont (must be approved by the state legislature)
Writing for Roll Call last January, Jacob Fischler reported that "The state legislative campaign arms of both parties said wins in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin would help win congressional majorities for the next decade. Those six states send a total of 116 representatives to the U.S. House-- more than a quarter of the entire voting body. Republicans outnumber Democrats in their combined delegations, 70-46. Both chambers of the legislature in all six states are now held by Republicans, and all empower their legislatures to draw congressional district lines." He rates Pennsylvania as the likeliest target, Georgia as the toughest.

The DLCC is spending $50 million to flip chambers and at least one allied group, Swing Left, is also spending. Fischler wrote that "Flipping a chamber in Texas, as in Florida, Georgia or Wisconsin, would break a Republican trifecta-- control in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. In all states but Minnesota, one party controls both legislative chambers going into the 2020 elections. Similar, for redistricting purposes, is North Carolina. The state doesn’t give its governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, the power to veto maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature. [National Democratic Redistricting Committee spokesman Patrick] Rodenbush called the path to flipping a chamber in Tar Heel State 'tough but doable,' pointing out that the legislative elections will use new maps drawn after a 2018 state court ruling that found the North Carolina lines represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Yesterday Politico's Ally Mutnick equated the race to turn the state legislatures with the presidential race! "Far away from the glare of the presidential campaign," she wrote, "a competition rivaling it in importance is playing out across the country: for power over the redistricting process-- and potentially control of the House for the next decade." And she honed in on North Carolina and Texas. "Both parties are funneling millions into the battle for the Texas state House and the North Carolina legislature, eager to have a greater say in the crafting of what could be as many as 53 congressional districts between the two states combined. Republican mapmakers locked in a GOP advantage there over the past decade: Before 2018, the GOP held 69 percent of House seats in Texas and 77 percent of seats in North Carolina. 'North Carolina and Texas have a history of some of the worst gerrymandering in the country,' said Kelly Ward Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an initiative formed to break the GOP's hold on the map-drawing process. 'And so the ability to move from extreme gerrymandering into fair maps is incredibly notable.' Thanks to curbs on gerrymandering forced by voter initiatives and public pressure, along with the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have already made up some of the ground they lost to Republicans after 2010. That year's wave election helped keep the GOP in the House majority for eight years and in control of many state legislative chambers for the entire decade."
North Carolina and Texas are so important because they are large, growing states entirely under GOP control-- and many of the other maps Republicans drew a decade ago have stubbornly endured, blunting Democratic gains. Privately, many Democrats concede they have no chance to flip any chamber in Ohio or Wisconsin, and only a narrow path to gaining control of the Florida state House.

Democratic strategists in Texas say 15 to 20 GOP-held seats will host competitive races, most of which lie in the quickly diversifying suburbs. Several of those are open seats, thanks to Republican retirements, and nine of them were carried by then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke in his 2018 Senate bid. Texas Democrats have mimicked the national party’s successful 2018 strategy, recruiting several women of color and veterans who are capitalizing on suburban disgust of President Donald Trump.

"In all these districts, in the polls I’ve seen, the president is definitely upside down in terms of his favorable rating. And that is hurting the entire Republican ticket," said Texas state House Democratic Caucus chair Chris Turner. "This is definitely the biggest battlefield for the state House that I can remember at least since my election, which was in 2008."

...Democratic operatives see the greatest opportunity in areas where rapid demographic change is diluting the GOP’s edge. Forward Majority is funneling its resources toward four growing states: Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona-- largely abandoning the Rust Belt targets it went after in 2018.

Goal Thermometer“Democratic performance in state legislative races underperformed the congressional wave of 2018, and a lot of pundits said, ‘Well that’s gerrymandering,’” said Vicky Hausman, a co-founder of the group. That’s true, she agreed, in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the population is static.

“It’s not true in the Sun Belt, where we’ve just seen so much population growth and diversification in the suburbs essentially blur the lines of the gerrymanders,” she said. “They just don’t hold.”
The Blue America 2020 state legislative thermometer above has some of the most progressive candidates running for state legislatures around the country. Please consider chipping in what you can. This is the future of the Democratic Party and the future of the country.

UPDATE: Katherine Norman is one of the progressive Democratic state Senate candidates who could help flip that chamber. And she's running against one of the most toxic Republicans in Florida politics, Republican Party chair and Trump campaign co-chair Joe Gruters. This morning she told me that her opponent "represents the very worst about the GOP, and dare I say, the FLGOP which is an even more cultish group. He claims that he wanted to get dark money out of politics and shares an office with the registered agent of 76 Republican Super PACs Eric Robinson. He inflames race issues by calling the coronavirus the ‘Wuhan’ virus at the RNC, falsely claiming the McCloskeys were threatened by BLM protesters on CBS News with Jim DeFede. He embraces the candidacy of self-proclaimed Islamaphobe Laura Loomer. He is a Trump fixture that embodies and represents the administration above all else." 
Every day I am connecting with voters through my outreach on social media. Often, I find that there is someone running against this entrenched Republican is enough to garner major support. Many people I have spoken with haven’t felt represented or hopeful in decades.

I am so proud to be a part of the movement for real, transparent, government in the face of deliberate deception under our current leadership. It is clear that the voters do not trust the FLGOP and I would love to reach and engage as many voters as possible.

I have so much data and intel on my opponent. I have been working diligently to understand the needs and motivations of voters in my district. If I had the funding I could hammer the message home to voters here in my district and certainly about the FLGOP across the state for Biden.

With more money my campaign could take on the kind of strategic large scale operation necessary to send a serious message to this very powerful incumbent, to the FLGOP as a whole, and to Democratic Voters in my district and beyond. I would be proud to do so and am critically invested in making sure that I have exerted all measures humanly possible to prevent a FLGOP victory in November.

Labels: , , , ,


At 5:44 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Good summary Howie.

At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I got to "The Florida Democratic Party is just not capable of that and is, in fact, worse than useless.", I had to stop reading.

First, the national Democratic Party is just not capable of anything and is, in fact, worse than useless.

Second, TOO MANY State Democratic Party organizations are just not capable of much and are, in fact, generally worse than useless.

I just listened to clips of Nancy Pelo$i and AOC addressing the RBG crisis. Pelo$i sounded like a Lame Duck while AOC has "passion". I don't see either of them, however, achieving anything valuable in stopping the slide into fascism. It's FAR too late to start worrying about this now.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trump has closed the gap with Biden to just two points in 'must-win' swing state of Florida, new poll finds

Draw your own conclusion.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defeatism is not what we need at this point!! Nothing is predetermined. We simply don't know how all of this will turn out.

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we need is a real opposition party. Until we have one, what is going to stop the Republicans from converting this nation into a corporatist dictatorship?


Post a Comment

<< Home