2017 Pre-Election Memo

charlieRSLC News


TO:                   Interested Parties

FROM:             Justin Richards, RSLC Vice President, Political Affairs and Communications

DATE:              Friday, November 3, 2017

RE:                   Previewing Election Night in the States

Republican ranks in the states have never been stronger. Republicans control 69 of 99 legislative chambers plus split control in the Connecticut Senate. Combined with record number of Republican Governors, the number of state governments under Republican trifecta control stands at 26. Additionally, in North Carolina, Republican legislative supermajorities can override the Democrat governor’s veto. This unprecedented success means that Republicans have complete control over the legislature in nearly three times as many states as Democrats.

1) With record levels of success, the political battleground has moved primarily to Democrat-leaning districts in traditionally Democrat states.


  • Republicans hold a 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates, including 17 districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. The races Democrats have heavily invested in this cycle are almost entirely on turf they won at the federal level in 2016.
  • The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, has invested at least $1 million across Virginia state races, a state President Obama carried twice. Democrats, including Ralph Northam, designed and adopted the state Senate map to their advantage, yet they do not hold either majority.
  • Virginia Republicans have a track record of withstanding previous presidential electoral trends going back to 2013, when every GOP House incumbent outran the 2012 presidential numbers in their respective district the following fall.
  • Virginia Democratic House candidates have been on par with Republicans when it comes to fundraising, something we have not seen in previous cycles, with Democrat candidates outraising Republican candidates in 10 of the 20 most competitive Republican held seats.
  • State Senator Jill Vogel is positioned to be the first woman elected Lt. Governor in Virginia history as part of the Republican ticket aiming for its first statewide victories since 2009. The Lt. Governor breaks tie votes in the state Senate, where Republicans have a 21-19 majority.
  • Nationally, five Republican Lt. Governors have stepped into the Governor’s office in 2017 with a sixth pending the confirmation of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to an appointment in the Trump Administration. Virginia Governors are limited to one term in office.

New Jersey

  • There are two battleground districts to watch on Election Night, Senate districts 2 and 11, in which $4 million has been spent by candidates and outside groups for both races.
    • SD-2 is currently held by Democrat Colin Bell. State Assemblyman Chris Brown is challenging him for this seat, which Clinton won by 12% in 2016 and President Obama carried by 20% in 2012. If Brown is successful it would represent the second state legislative seat to flip from Democrat to Republican control in 2017.
    • SD-11 is held by Republican Jennifer Beck, in a district specifically designed by Democrats on New Jersey’s redistricting commission to their advantage, yet Beck successfully won re-election in 2011 and 2013. President Obama and Hillary Clinton both carried this district the last two presidential elections.
      • Democrat campaigns and outside groups have outspent the Republican slate on television by at least a 4:1 margin.


Washington State

  • Highlighted by the RSLC’s Future Majority Project and Right Women, Right Now initiatives, Republicans have recruited an incredible candidate in Jinyoung Lee Englund, a third generation Washingtonian, an entrepreneur, and a Marine wife, who is running in the mold of the late Senator Andy Hill.
  • Englund has been endorsed by The Seattle Times who argued she would “preserve a balance of power between Democratic and Republican control in state government.”
  • Total spending on independent expenditures has nearly doubled when compared against a similar Washington Senate special in 2013, which had set the previous record.
  • Big liberal donors like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg invested early in the race, cutting six-figure personal checks as early as August and September, respectively.
  • The Republican-held Senate has been the last break on Governor Jay Inslee’s progressive policy wish list including a capital gains tax, cap-and-trade, and other spending projects. Democrats in both chambers will have to answer for votes on these issues in 2018 elections.

2) Recruitment Matters

  • In the 2015 House of Delegate races, Democrats did not even file candidates in 4 Republican-held districts that Hillary Clinton ended up carrying in 2016.
  • This is not isolated to Virginia as Democrats failed to file candidates in five state House districts in Connecticut, a 2018 RSLC target to flip to Republican majority; and five state House districts in Georgia, a state where Democrats and former Attorney General Eric Holder now blame their lack of success on supposed “gerrymandering.”
  • Republicans have had success down ballot even in districts that Democrats win at the top of the ticket on the Presidential level. In 2012, Republican state legislators won 410 seats in districts that then-President Obama carried at the top of the ticket. In 2016, Republican legislators won 394 state legislative seats that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also won.

3) The Left is Reorganizing and Investing Heavily at the State Level Ahead of 2020 Redistricting Process

  • After years of ignoring state legislative races, Democrats are now realizing their importance in the redistricting process and are refocusing their efforts on state legislatures ahead of 2020, beginning with Virginia.
  • Forward Majority, formed by Obama campaign alumni, aims to raise $100 million over the next four years to targeted Republican-held legislative chambers in 12 states.
  • The Virginia League of Conservation voters allocated $100,000 towards VA House of Delegate races which they described as a “record investment down ticket.”
  • The National Democratic Redistricting Committee raised $10.8 million in its first six months. This group has in turn invested over a million dollars into races in Virginia this cycle.
  • Tom Steyer’s political committee, NextGen America, committed $2 million to turn out millennial voters on 25 college campuses throughout Virginia.
  • A cohort of liberal groups including NextGen America, Planned Parenthood, and Priorities USA Action joined together for a $2 million digital ad buy, which ran from September through Election Day to turnout progressive-leaning voters.


What Republicans have learned, and continue to implement, is that voters will support candidates they like, candidates they know, and candidates they believe in. These three pillars have been the guiding playbook to political success for Republicans to reach historic highs and key elements no matter how challenging the national political environment over the rest of the 2017-2018 cycle.