An Autopsy Isn’t the Answer


The Democrats continue to circle the problem but still can’t find the answer. The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday finally released their post-2014 election autopsy – five months after their self-imposed deadline – attempting to address how to rebuild their party in the states, which has been decimated in the Obama era. Releasing the post-2014 analysis two weeks after the 2015 elections where Democrats suffered more massive defeats in red, purple and blue states shows how far behind and out-of-touch with state elections the DNC remains.

This year’s elections had many of the hallmarks of 2014 and continued an historic GOP state-level dominance spreading from coast to coast. Since 2008, Republicans have picked up more than 900 new legislative seats and 30 new legislative chambers. Republicans now control an all-time high, 69 out of 99, state legislative chambers, 32 out of 45 lieutenant governors, and 27 out of 50 secretaries of state. Republicans hold the governor and full legislature in 24 states – compared to Democrats’ seven – and hold majorities in 23 chambers in states President Obama carried twice, including both chambers in traditional presidential battlegrounds Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

If the DNC truly wants to understand the reason for their historic losses going into 2016 and beyond, they should note only this: if Republicans continue to run the kind of open, hopeful candidates who have been successful at the state level, they will continue to win in the states and at the federal level too.

In 2015, Republican candidates focused on people – the families, small business owners and hard workers who live in that state or district. Republican candidates focused on those same people’s hopes for a new, different, ground-up government to match the good things they see in their lives coming from education reforms, fewer regulations and lower taxes.
Republicans won because we ran candidates like Lieutenant Governor-Elect Jenean Hampton in Kentucky. She’s not a career politician, but a U.S. Air Force veteran and businesswoman ready to fight for the betterment of her state. On Election Day, she became the first African American elected statewide in Kentucky history.

Republicans ran candidates like Fred Akshar, a 15-year law enforcement veteran, who won a New York Senate special election in District 52 – carried by Obama in 2012 – with more than 70 percent of the vote, in a state formerly represented by Hillary Clinton.

Republicans ran candidates like Teri Hickel, an education activist and community leader who won a special election for the Washington House District 30B against a retread Democrat who had already lost twice, moving the House one seat away from a split chamber and marking the sixth-straight election year with Republican House gains.

And Republicans ran new diverse and women candidates like Shane Aguirre and Jenifer Branning in Mississippi, Julie Emerson in Louisiana, Cindi Duchow in Wisconsin and Jason Miyares in Virginia.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton confidante Governor Terry McAuliffe failed to recruit a Democratic candidate in 44 out of 100 Virginia House districts where the legislature was the Democrats’ top 2015 target.

On Election Day 2015, the number of offices held by Republicans was maintained or increased in Republican strongholds of the Deep South and in competitive, transitional states of Virginia and Kentucky.  Republicans even saw success in Obama-carried districts in blue states like Maine, New York and Washington.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. After all, the DNC vowed a plan five months ago to ensure this would stop happening. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the DGA, DLCC and the billionaires spending millions through liberal groups like the Democracy Alliance also all promised that this time would be different at the state level, spending untold resources to stop the GOP state-level juggernaut. Liberal billionaires, unions and trial lawyers outspent Republican candidates and independent groups in nearly every race and state this year.

Yet they still lost. And they will continue to lose as long as they remain focused on big money, national narratives, national tactics, and a top-down approach on how to connect with voters in the states from the comfort of their New York City and Washington, D.C. conference rooms. And they will continue to lose as long as Republicans continue to field top, quality candidates and stay focused on people.

At the RSLC, we believe that a candidate makes a district or state competitive, not the other way around. Through our Right Women, Right Now and Future Majority Project initiatives, we have prioritized finding new women and diverse candidates to run at the state level who truly reflect the richness, diversity and needs of that community.

We are proud to have supported the many hundreds of candidates who’ve run and assumed office since the initiatives began in 2012. And as long as we stay focused on running the right candidates for the right districts with the right message, we will continue to win – no matter what the DNC autopsy says.