Your donation to a political campaign can be more powerful and impact more lives when it goes to a state race instead of a Congressional one. Our Head of Giving Circles, Melissa Walker, sat down with the hosts of Girl and the Gov to unpack why that’s true and how you can get more bang for your buck by investing in state races this November.
Read a snippet of their conversation and listen to the full episode below!
Girl and the Gov: Moving deeper into this concept of state politics and how people really aren’t paying attention — it’s also not funded the same way as federal races. Can you explain why that is? Why are federal races funded so much more than state races?
Melissa Walker, The States Project: I think that’s really been true on one side. Democrats have a tendency to be distracted by the big shiny objects in Washington D.C. but the radical right has really been organizing at the state level for a very long time, in a very robust way. An example from 2020 is when Maine Democratic candidate Sara Gideon, who was running against Susan Collins, ended her 2020 unsuccessful US Senate campaign, she had nearly $15 million left over in the bank – $10 million, just 2/3 of her surplus, would have fully-funded our work to build governing majorities in 13 states.
So when we look at the imbalance of funding in these races, you can point to a lot of things, certainly the shiny object syndrome, certainly the national media always focusing on Washington D.C. People give politically based on a lot of emotion, anger, fear and also inspiration. What they see is the media talking about federal seats, but it really is incredible the impact that folks can have at the state level. This is a sentence that I love to say: it is often cheaper to flip an entire state chamber than it is to win a single, competitive congressional seat. When we focus on the states, our resources can really go far.
Girl and the Gov: That’s super smart and we have to use it. But I think to your point, we’re seeing the results of the GOP investing in state legislatures impact the federal level so I’m curious what your thoughts are on that — the escalation of something happening at the state and then it impacting federal? What does that look like right now?
Melissa Walker, The States Project: Absolutely! I always say to people I know that if you care about Congress, you should care about state legislatures because state legislators draw the district lines that literally just decide who is elected to Congress. And if you care about the presidency, you should care about state legislatures because state legislators decide who can vote, when, and if they’re purging the rolls in their states. Are they introducing anti-voter policies or are they expanding the vote?
In Virginia, when a new majority was elected in 2019, they passed their own Voting Rights Act. They didn’t even wait for the federal bill to come through, which it still hasn’t, but they actually passed their own and made Election Day a holiday. Can you imagine if election day were a holiday everywhere? It changes who can vote and when and how many people can vote. This impact goes well beyond local issues.
I also often say that if you care about the Supreme Court, you should care about state legislatures because the Supreme Court doesn’t write laws, they rule on laws that are coming out of state legislatures. So when we look at something like Roe v. Wade, which may fall this spring because of a Mississippi state law, we have to understand that state lawmakers are deciding whether women have a right to choose and they’ve been deciding it for a very long time.
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