So Tuesday was a rough night for down-ballot Democrats.
How rough? Well, I did say to expect a nadir, and being right isn't necessarily fun.
Here's that handy List of Essential Statehouses I advised watching, and what happened where.
- Arkansas House (48 D/51 R/1 G): R majority grew (34 D/63 R)
- Arizona Senate (13 D/17 R): Still R, no change
- Colorado House (37 D/28 R): Ds kept majority (final numbers unavailable)
- Colorado Senate (18 D/17 R): Probably flipped R (final numbers unavailable)
- Iowa House (47 D/53 R): R majority grew (43 D/57 R)
- Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R): Ds kept majority, no change
- Kentucky House (54 D/46 R): Ds kept majority (53 D/46 R/1 tbd)
- Maine Senate (19 D/15 R): Flipped R (13 D/21 R)
- Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I): Rs grew majority (46 D/63 R)
- Minnesota House (73 D/61 R): Flipped R (62 D/72 R)
- Nevada Assembly (27 D/15 R): Flipped R (17 D/25 R)
- Nevada Senate (11 D/10 R): Flipped R (10 D/11 R)
- New Hampshire House (212 D/174 R/13 vacancies): Flipped R (final numbers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
- New Hampshire Senate (11 D/13 R): Rs grew majority (9 D/14 R/1 tbd)
- New Mexico House (37 D/33 R): Flipped R (34 D/36 R)
- New York Senate (26 D/30 R/5 IDC/2 vacancies): Flipped R (27 D/32 R/4 IDC)
- Oregon Senate (16 D/14 R): Ds grew majority (17 D/12 R/1 tbd)
- Pennsylvania Senate (23 D/27 R): Rs grew majority (20 D/30 R)
- Washington Senate (23 D/24 R/2 MCC): Flipped R (24 D/25 R)
- West Virginia House (53 D/47 R): Flipped R (36 D/64 R)
- Wisconsin Senate (15 D/18 R): Rs grew majority (14 D/19 R)
- The chamber I overlooked (in terms of being "in play") was the West Virginia Senate, which moved from a Democratic majority (24 D/10 R) to a tie (17 D/17 R)... except then a Democrat defected, giving the GOP control of the chamber (16 D/18 R). Jerk.
So that's a bunch of states and numbers and WHO CARES DEMOCRATS LOST THE SENATE AND GOT CREAMED IN THE HOUSE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOM
This is it! The moment we should have trained for!
- Something tells me I could easily defeat those trained professionals! Democrats kept their majority in the Kentucky state House. It's neat because OMG 2016!!!
- Republicans -- including national groups, state-based PACs, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity -- invested serious scratch into flipping this chamber (I'm super stoked for final numbers, although we may never have a tally for AfP).
- Sen. Rand Paul even helped raise money for the effort.
- Paul didn't help out because he was feeling nice; he had a serious interest in flipping that House. Current state law prohibits candidates from running for two elected offices simultaneously, which I hear is a thing Rand Paul is pretty into doing in 2016. Democrats will almost certainly continue to block any proposed measure that would allow him to run for Senate and President at the same time.
- Also, Speaker Stumbo is already talking about reintroducing a bill to gradually raise the state's hourly minimum wage form $7.25 to $10.10. The GOP-controlled state Senate killed a similar measure during the last Session.
- Gravity normal. Air pressure returning. Terror replaced by cautious optimism: Despite a poor showing for Democratic candidates in the state overall, Democrats kept their one-seat majority in the Iowa state Senate. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Legit Badass) and his caucus will continue as the state's backstop against a right-wing agenda pushed by Gov. Branstad and the GOP-majority House.
- So don't look to Iowa for stuff like amendments enshrining a same-sex marriage ban and "right to work" in the state's Constitution, or new restrictions on choice and women's healthcare, or new voting restrictions. Not. Gonna. Happen.
- Now open your mouth and let's have a look at that brain: In Arkansas, Tuesday was not only a bad day for Democrats (Republicans will continue to hold the House and Senate, and they'll soon be joined by GOP Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson), but it was also especially rough for anyone who's into giving some 200,000 Arkansans continued access to health insurance (via the state's "private option" approach to expanding Medicaid).
- While Hutchinson allegedly quietly supports the private option, opponents of the plan made "major gains" in both chambers.
- Fun fact! The legislature will have to re-authorize funding for the private option again next year -- with a 75% majority vote of both the House and Senate. This could get... interesting. Stay tuned!
- At the risk of sounding negative, no: In Tennessee, GOP lawmakers will be doing a lot of legislating of lady parts in the near future. Amendment 1 passed with 54% of the vote, so now the state's Constitution won't get in the way of the Republican-controlled legislature's efforts to restrict abortions and dictate women's healthcare. A mandatory waiting period, special "inspection requirements" for facilities, and mandatory counseling are already being teed up for next session.
- I'll be whatever I wanna do: The chamber flips in New Mexico (House), Minnesota (House), Colorado (Senate), and Maine (Senate) likely won't produce drastic shifts in policy, since the other chamber in these states retained Democratic majorities.
- This is the third hose fight I've broken up today, and the second using actual hoses: Keep an eye out for partisan drama in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and West Virginia as the Democratic governors in these states face off against legislatures that will be under minty-fresh complete GOP control.
- Fire all weapons and open a hailing frequency for my victory yodel: Nevada will be a fun place to watch over the next year or so. The GOP governor with national ambitions suddenly has a GOP-controlled legislature. Zany antics are sure to ensue!
If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate! But some of the real harm done to Democrats this cycle is a bit less obvious than chamber flips or a landmark GOP majority in the U.S. House.
- Part of the reason Republicans will enjoy such a large congressional majority harkens back to the walloping of statehouse Democrats in 2010. Dems lost their seat at a lot of super important tables during redistricting because of big GOP wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, among many others.
- If Democrats are going to have a say in the 2021 redistricting process, they're going to need a majority in at least one chamber of those state legislatures (and others, too, obvs).
- 2012 was a step in the right direction. Democrats gained seats in OH and PA and WI and MI that cycle (and others, too, obvs). If Democrats could have at least held on to those gains in 2014, winning back some of those majorities by 2020 seemed totally doable.
- But then Tuesday happened, and Democrats lost ground in each of those chambers (and others, too, obvs).
- Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan are home to 56 congressional districts. That's a lot of Congress to have gerrymandered away from you.
- Obviously, some of those seats would end up Democratic, but not many.
- Currently, Democrats hold 17 of these 56 seats -- less than a third of the districts in states that all gave a majority of their popular vote to Obama in 2012.
- Bottom line: If Democrats don't want to end up totally boned in the U.S. House until 2030, they need to start focusing on state legislative elections, like, yesterday.
- Fun fact! In the Kentucky Senate race, Democratic and progressive outside groups spent over $10 million. One race. Outside groups. Meanwhile, the national party committee responsible for electing Democrats to all the state legislatures all over the country -- 98 partisan chambers, 6,000+ seats -- raised $16 million for the 2014 cycle. (h/t David Sirota)
- I'm not saying Senate campaigns aren't important and don't merit many millions of dollars in campaign spending, because they are, and they do.
- But if progressives are interested in the long-term electoral health of the Democratic Party, they need to start looking at state legislative elections as similarly worthy of that level of investment.
As always, holler with any questions, concerns, complaints, comments, hopes, dreams....
Awesome To The Max