The presidential election will overlap in November with the fight for state capitals, increasing voter participation in elections for state legislative seats. State legislature elections in 2020 also are important because they are the last before the next round of redistricting begins in early 2021. In most states, the line-drawing responsibility lies with governors and state legislators, who look to reshape district lines to their party’s advantage.
Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arizona, and North Carolina were among the 10 states with the closest margins of victory in 2016. Iowa and Texas, each of which President Trump carried by 9 percentage points, may be closer this November. Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas also have Senate elections worth watching. Texas has 36 congressional districts and is projected to gain more in the reapportionment of House seats this December, making it a prime target for both parties.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (“DLCC”) is focusing on overturning slender Republican majorities in one or both legislative chambers in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Voting decided all seven elections by single digits in the 2016 elections. In several, more power would result in a greater say in redistricting after the 2020 census.
The DLCC is on pace to spend $50 million in the 2020 elections. That is a drastic increase from the $8 million it spent in 2010. Democrats are seeking a stronger footing in redistricting after a disastrous 2010 election, in which Republicans dominated elections for governor and state legislatures at the midpoint of President Barack Obama’s first term.
Even after Democratic gains in 2018 and 2019, Republicans presently control 59 state legislative chambers compared with 39 for Democrats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature in 21 states, compared with 15 for Democrats.
Republicans plan to bolster their fundraising and other campaign efforts to hold on to control of state governments against a Democratic onslaught focused on the 2020 elections and the redistricting process to follow.
“We’re trying to make sure they don’t do to us what we did to them” in the 2010 election, Austin Chambers, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee (“RSLC”), said at a press briefing. Republicans gained a half-dozen governorships and hundreds of state legislative seats that year, following President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
Republicans are concentrating their campaign efforts on states such as Florida and Georgia, where they are trying to keep the “trifecta” of legislative majorities and the governorship, as well as North Carolina and Wisconsin, where Republican-majority legislatures face Democratic governors. New York was the one Democratic-controlled state on a list of a dozen targeted by the RSLC. Republicans are trying to avoid “super-minority” status in the Empire State, where Democrats may gain a veto-proof legislative majority in the next election.