While Democrats staved off a red wave on Capitol Hill this year – an impressive feat for a Midterm election. At The States Project, we believe the party’s most significant victories happened in state legislatures as Democrats dramatically outperformed expectations.
For the first time since 1934, the party that holds the White House didn’t lose a single legislative chamber. And for the first time in years, more Americans will live in a state fully controlled by Democrats (42%) than in one fully controlled by Republicans (39%). The success was a combination of defense and offense.
The States Project (TSP) affiliates helped lead the way by making a historic investment of nearly $60 million in state legislatures over this two-year cycle – the most ever by an outside effort. We proved that when we invest and treat state legislative chambers like the Major Leagues of politics, we can win.
New Democratic trifectas fueled by TSP investments will help improve the lives of millions of Americans.
TSP was the top funder in Michigan, investing 8 times more than the next largest giver. The result? Democrats flipped both legislative chambers, creating the party’s first trifecta in the state in nearly 40 years.
But this historic victory shouldn’t be taken for granted. In an election where 4.5 million Michiganders voted, the highest-ever turnout for a midterm election in the state, just 202 votes changing in one critical district would have prevented a new State Senate majority.
With united governing power in Lansing, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and new legislative majorities are entering this term with an ambitious agenda to protect reproductive healthcare, improve student outcomes through expanded public school funding, and codify her administration’s climate action plan into law.
TSP was also the largest funder in Minnesota, fueling Democrats to flip the Senate and hold the House, securing a trifecta in the state for the first time since 2013.
In the Minnesota State Senate, Judy Seeberger, a teacher, paramedic advocate, mom and military wife won Senate District 41, the tie-breaking seat in the Senate, by just 321 votes. In other words, just 161 voters changing their minds would have prevented the new majority in the Minnesota Senate.
The margin in the Minnesota House was also razor-thin, if 737 voters had gone the other way, the GOP would have won control.
Entering 2023 with full Democratic control in St. Paul, Governor Tim Walz (D-WI) and the legislative majorities will be empowered to protect reproductive healthcare for millions as the state is now a destination for patients from surrounding states – Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota – seeking access to safe, legal medical care. Plus, other top priorities for Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature: advancing a paid leave law to support working families and an ambitious climate agenda to transition the state to 100 percent clean energy.
TSP investments helped prevent unchecked rightwing control in key battlegrounds.
In North Carolina, we helped prevent unchecked rightwing control of the General Assembly, defending the Democratic Governor’s veto against radical legislation.
Diamond Staton-Williams, in HD-73, won her race by 629 votes and was the singular seat preventing the GOP’s supermajority in the House. In addition to our candidate contributions fueled by Giving Circles, she received donations from Give Smart – where members of The States Project community give directly to candidates – which bolstered investment in her race so she could invest in TV ads at parity with her competitor.
With an assist from TSP in the closest races, Democrats preserved enough power to prevent a supermajority in the House to protect Governor Cooper’s (D-NC) veto power and shield North Carolinians from the rightwing’s most radical policies. Having this check on the rightwing majority will also help the Governor work with the General Assembly to support the state’s economy, invest in resilient infrastructure, and preserve healthcare access.
Our goal going into Nebraska was to prevent a rightwing supermajority by protecting every seat in the state’s 17-member minority. What kinds of radical rightwing policies have this Democratic minority blocked? An extreme abortion ban, efforts to divert tax dollars away from K-12 public schools to benefit private schools, and a dangerous proposal to loosen the state’s gun laws.
Our strategy in the state was to protect vulnerable incumbents while evaluating other districts to determine where a seat could be gained after the state’s redistricting process. Due to the tight nature of the races and their outcomes, it’s clear that district selection was a critical element of success.
When the rightwing candidate won SD-12 by just over 500 votes, preventing the supermajority came down to one of the tightest races we worked on in 2022. John Frederickson, a mental health professional, won SD-20 to win the necessary 17th seat by just 69 votes, thereby preventing a filibuster-proof supermajority.
Perhaps the best example of TSP’s unique impact in 2022 is in Pennsylvania, where TSP’s investment was 80 times more than the next largest funder. And even though other national groups abandoned the state House, with TSP’s backing, Democrats beat the odds and flipped the 12 seats needed to take back the House majority for the first time since 2010.
But… it’s not over yet.. On February 7, 2023, there will likely be three special elections for the Pennsylvania House to replace one Democratic incumbent who died and two others who won higher office – each of these districts we successfully helped hold in November.
Our continued work in the state will be critical to keeping a governing majority in the chamber. With new power in the state legislature and a Democratic governor, more policies that protect freedoms in the state – like reproductive rights and democracy – are possible.
But when all is said and done, and the votes are counted, we are confident that DemocraticLeader Joanna McClinton (HD-191) will still hold the gavel as the first woman to serve as Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House and partner with incoming Governor Josh Shapiro.
In the Granite State, TSP made targeted investments in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. After redistricting, the clearest path to a new majority was in the State House, so we teamed up with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that could set us on a path to shifting the balance of power in the chamber.
In the critical two weeks leading up to Election Day, Giving Circles fueled our signature Door Knocking Challenge, which incentivizes candidates to spend the majority of their time meeting voters at the doors. Many of the candidates who participated in our Door Knocking Challenge won their seats by narrow margins, and we believe that face-to-face contact was game-changing. For example, Eric Turner (HD-RO 6) knocked 484 doors and won by just 16 votes and Zoe Manos (HD-RO 12) knocked 465 doors and won by just 325 votes.
We believed that we could shift power in the chamber, and with recounts in several extremely tight races underway, it appears that we’re just short of our goal, but the chamber will be close enough to require cross-partisan cooperation in general.
The States Project, www.statesproject.org. Paid for by The PAC for America’s Future, 611 Pennsylvania Ave SE, #143, Washington, DC 20003 and Future Now Action. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.