TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Justin Richards, RSLC Vice President, Political Affairs and Communications
DATE: November 5, 2018
RE: Previewing Election Night in the States
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s REDMAP program in 2010 took advantage of the traditional political opportunity to reverse the gains of the opposite party who had taken control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. When the dust settled, Republicans netted 21 new state legislative majorities and 725 state legislative seats. Many of those chambers hadn’t been Republican since Reconstruction.
While state-level Republicans continued to gain new seats and majorities through Election Day 2016 despite predictions otherwise, achieving all-time highs, Democrats now have the widest playing field they have ever had in their search to flip seats or majorities.
New Democrat State-Level Groups Pick their Targets
Recognizing their political infrastructure had failed them devastatingly over the Obama years, Democrats announced half a dozen national political organizations had formed or expanded their presence at the state level. Combined, they have committed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars ahead of the 2020 redistricting process.
President Obama and Eric Holder admitted their National Democratic Redistricting Committee was designed to borrow the strategies of the RSLC’s successful REDMAP project. According to their website, the group is looking to take control of the redistricting process by targeting state legislative chambers in Presidential battlegrounds, including the Florida and Wisconsin state Senates, and both chambers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. REDMAP 2010 flipped six of those chambers from blue to red.
Another group, Forward Majority, declared they would raise and spend $100 million before 2020 redistricting. Forward Majority has spent nearly all of its disclosed resources this year in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, having failed to retake control of the Virginia House in 2017.
Republicans Stepping into New Opportunities
Since Election Day 2016, seven Republican Lt. Governors have stepped into the governor’s office. On Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster are well-positioned to win a full term as governor, while Vermont Gov. Phil Scott will be re-elected to a second. Idaho Lt. Governor Brad Little is also heavily favored to win the governor’s office.
Republican Secretaries of State are also on the ballot in highly-targeted races, including gubernatorial candidates Kris Kobach and Brian Kemp, and Jon Husted, who is running for Lt. Governor in Ohio. Nevada Senate Republican Leader Michael Roberson and Vermont House Republican Leader Don Turner are also running for lieutenant governor. Several other state legislators are running for statewide and federal offices.
Due to the successes of these Republicans, the Democrats have revamped their efforts and relaunched the Democratic Lieutenant Governors and the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State this cycle to compete with the successes of the RLGA and RSSC.
Strengthening Female and Diverse Republican Representation
Since the RSLC launched the “Future Majority Project” and “Right Women, Right Now” initiatives in the 2012 cycle, we have helped support the election of 101 new candidates of diverse ethnicities and over 500 new female state-level elected officials across all fifty states.
The RSLC has released five waves of “18 in ‘18 Races to Watch” highlighting new and incumbent Republican diverse, female, and gay candidates for state level offices.
Republicans are in the fight and have conceded no majority before Election Day. Unlike the Democrats’ position in 2010, Republicans have remained focused on expanding the state-level map by putting Democrat-led chambers in Alaska and Connecticut in play this cycle.
Dozens of state legislative districts, and possibly majorities, will come down to a few hundred voters. While millions in new investments are certainly real, Democrats will be judged on their new groups’ target selection and ability to achieve success similar to that of REDMAP 2010.