Following Tom Perez’s election as DNC chair, his leading example of success was a Democrat win in the recent Delaware State Senate special election. But what he omitted was essential: Democrats spent over a million dollars, more than twenty times typical Delaware Senate races and 10 times what Republicans spent, only to win by the same margin as Barack Obama.
Democrats are organizing and publicly rallying behind countless groups dedicated to spending tens of millions of dollars to win state races and impact 2020 redistricting. To fully understand the Democrats’ redistricting urgency, it’s important to first understand how we got here.
For Republicans, preparation met opportunity through the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) 2010 REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP). Party leaders Ed Gillespie, Tom Reynolds and Karl Rove developed a national strategy which, when coupled with great candidates, effective campaigns and the failures of an overreaching Obama-led, Democrat-dominated Washington, resulted in historic-Republican gains, changing the electoral map overnight.
In 21 chambers that year, control flipped from Democrats to Republicans, and most of the districts where Republicans won in those states were drawn by Democrats.
During the last reapportionment, Republicans drew fair and competitive congressional, state and local districts — a stark difference from the Democrat-redistricting dominance that hung heavy over most of the 20th century. With fair lines, Republicans won with quality candidates, better operations and a better vision for their states. Historic GOP majorities grew over the next several cycles at all levels of government. Today, Republicans control a record 69 of 99 legislative chambers with tied control in the Connecticut Senate, winning a recent special election despite being outspent.
Contrary to Democrat myth, these victories were not in magically-gerrymandered districts. In 2012, 410 Republican state legislators won in districts that Obama simultaneously carried. Since 2009, almost 1,000 state legislative seats have changed from blue to red. Additionally, Republicans now hold majorities of governors, lieutenant governors, secretaries of state, attorneys general, the United States Senate and others defined by state boundaries not impacted by redistricting. More broadly, polling has shown that nearly every state is more likely to vote Republican than it was prior to 2010.
And red states have gotten redder, with Republicans holding more than 70 percent of the legislative and statewide offices in 10 states and at least two-thirds of 20 state senates. The increasingly right-leaning political and ideological temperature of the country has moved the battlefield into purple and blue states, where we’re even winning control in Minnesota and Washington.
This multi-cycle trend put many formerly Democrat and competitive chambers and the U.S. House out of reach for Democrats. That helped prime the battlefront for Republicans to re-capture the U.S. Senate, and, most notably in the Great Lakes states, helped blaze the skillfully-executed path to victory by Donald Trump.
The Democrat response to Republicans’ historic success has been as predictable as it will be unsuccessful. Democrats lost control with a lack of quality candidates and good ideas. Now they resort to baseless disparagement and attempts to change the rules.
Since the last redistricting, fringe liberals and their groups, billionairesand unions have spent millions bringing legal cases which would slant the playing field unfairly towards them. Courts were asked to intervene in 42 states with over 220 cases filed in federal and state courts. Democrat press releases about the lawsuits and crocodile tears about Republican “unfairness” were rarely followed by coverage of their ultimate failures in court. Now, liberals are spending millions to gain control of elected court majorities themselves in key redistricting states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Facing formidable opposition and liberal billionaires ready to open their checkbooks and engage, it is critical that Republicans and Independents renew and enhance their commitment to a broader, deeper, collaborative effort.
Republicans need to be prepared to effectively defend their fair lines in court and continue the good work of the RSLC’s Judicial Fairness Initiativeto help elect judges committed to the Constitution, not partisan politics.
We must ensure that the best data is available to drive fair and sound decisions on where lines are drawn and how legal cases are pursued. The public needs to know where Democrats may have abused their authority in states like Illinois.
Most importantly, we will need to continue supporting quality candidates with a good vision for their districts and states. We must increase support for the RSLC’s Future Majority Project (FMP) and Right Women, Right Now(RWRN), which have helped elect nearly 400 new women Republicans and nearly 100 new diverse Republicans to state-level offices nationwide.
Voters judge elected officials on how well they execute the duties of their office and improve their lives. Redistricting is an important part of the process, but it is only one element. Democrat A-listers are gearing up for a state-level showdown, but the ultimate measure of American democracy is the strength of its candidates and articulation of their vision. Republicans have been winning this battle throughout the first half of this decade, and if we have the additional focus and resources, we will continue to win moving forward.
Bill McCollum is the chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee and a former Florida Attorney General and U.S. Congressman.
Matt Walter is the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.
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