There’s something about hitting the teens that’s scary.
As in days left until the election, I mean.
Or literally assaulting teenagers. Please don’t do that.
But we’re a whole 19 days out now, so there’s no time to waste.
The High Priestess: The fact that the election is less than three weeks away means it’s high time I unveil my state legislative chamber flip ratings.
Mostly I’m just going to be talking about the ones I’ve previously discussed as flippable for Dems, but I’m going to be sprinkling in bits about a few chambers that aren’t on this list, too.
Democrats are mostly agreed on which chambers are the highest priorities for the party this year (though reasonable minds can and do differ around the edges).
Factors considered in creating this target list include:
How many seats do Democrats need to flip to win a majority in the chamber?
Do past election results, political trends, or other factors indicate that Democrats can flip that many seats in a single election?
Was Democratic recruitment strong?
Do legislators in that state impact redistricting (some states, like California, task independent commissions with drawing legislative and congressional maps)?
Topmost among those targets are (in alphabetical order, nothing to read into here):
Arizona House (Dems need to flip two for a majority)
Arizona Senate (Dems need to flip three)
Michigan House (Dems need to flip four)
Minnesota Senate (flip two)
North Carolina House (flip six)
North Carolina Senate (flip five)
Pennsylvania House (flip nine)
Texas House (flip nine)
InArizona, flipping either chamber would break the Republican trifecta. While legislative and congressional maps there are drawn by an independent redistricting commission, Republicans have spent the entire decade trying to undermine and dismantle the body; as long as the GOP has complete control of the state, fair redistricting is in real danger.
InMichigan, flipping the House would help stymie ongoing GOP efforts to dismantle or defang the independent redistricting commission the party’s been attacking since voters approved it in 2018.
InMinnesota, flipping the state Senate would give Democrats a governing trifecta (governorship, House, Senate) and complete control of the redistricting process.
Flipping at least one chamber inNorth Carolinais essential to preventing another GOP gerrymander of the state. The Democratic governor is generally favored to win reelection here, but it doesn’t matter—the legislature has complete control of legislative and congressional redistricting.
While Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is positioned to veto egregious partisan gerrymanders sent to him by the legislature, flipping a chamber inPennsylvaniawould give him a redistricting partner, so to speak, which would send him a fair map to approve, levy against the GOP in negotiations, or be considered by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court in litigation.
Flipping theTexasHouse would break the GOP trifecta in the state and give Democrats a say in the redistricting process for the first time since the infamousDeLay-mander of 2003.
Helpfully, no Dem-held chambers are really in danger of flipping.
… unless you count the Alaska House, which is counted among Democratic-majority chambers but was actually a cobbled-together coalition of Dems, independents, and moderate Republicans.
And I say “was” for a reason.
This coalition recently disintegrated after two of its six GOP members lost their primaries in August and a third died in a plane crash.
The remaining three Republicans say they support GOP control of the chamber next year.
So Republicans may be able to technically chalk up a chamber flip in their column after Nov. 3—even if they fail to pick up a single seat in this chamber.
Bully for them. Let’s get back to the statehouses that matter this fall.
(A quick note: The ratings I use are Safe, Likely, Lean, Tossup. Don’t give me any of this “Tilt” nonsense; that just means you can’t make up your mind and/or don’t have the guts to commit.)
The Sun: Arizona House (31 R/29 D) and Senate (17 R/13 D): I’d say both of these chambers are tossups.
Thanks to thedeep-dive analysisof my Daily Kos Elections colleagues, we know that there’s very much a path to the majority in each chamber.
First, a quick primer on how legislative districts, like,workin Arizona, because its setup is a little different from most other states.
Arizona is divided into 30 legislative districts, and each one of these districts elects one senator and two state representatives every two years.
The districts are exactly the same for both chambers.
Each party can nominate up to two candidates for each House district, and voters can vote for their top two choices in the general election.
The two candidates with the most votes are elected.
Currently, Republicans have a 17-13 majority in the state Senate and a 31-29 majority in the House.
Neither chambers has a presiding tie-breaking entity (fun fact: Arizona doesn't have a lieutenant governor!), so a tie in either chamber would result in either
A power-sharing agreement, or
Defections from one party or the other.
Either way, it’s better to have that outright majority.
In 2016, Clinton carried 14 of the state’s 30 legislative districts as she lost the state to Donald Trump 49-45.
In 2018, Sinema carried those 14 districts and also won two districts that went for Trump.
These Sinema/Trump districts are LD-17 and LD-20.
LD-17 moved from 51-43 Trump to 50-47 Sinema.
LD-20 went from 49-45 Trump to 51-47 Sinema.
Let’s take a closer look at LD-17.
In 2018, Republican J.D. Mesnard won an open Senate raceby a narrow 51-49 margin, so he’s a prime Democratic target for 2020.
He’s being challenged by DemocratAJ Kurdoglu, an immigrant and naturalized citizen who’s a small business owner and an ardent supporter of fully-funded public education and expanded access to quality health care.
And now for LD-20.
This district currently has an all-GOP delegation.
So, the paths to Democratic majorities in the Arizona House and Senate are fairly narrow and certainly challenging, but they very much exist.
But these races don’t exist in a vacuum.
Downballot Democrats are going to be helped by high-performing members of their party in other races, too.
Mark Kelly seems all but certain to oust U.S. Senator Martha McSally.
Polling consistently has the Democrat with a strong lead in the race, and McSally’s, Trump’s, and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey’s unfavorables are all fairly high, indicating a general level of dissatisfaction with Republican governance in the state that is likely to aid the party currently out of power.
The Devil: Michigan House (58 R/52 D): Shouldn’t be a tossup (should Lean D) but is.
The bottom line is that Democrats acquiesced to GOP-drawn maps thatdo give Democrats the chance to win more seats this fall, but it’s still going to be challenging for the party to take a majority in either chamber.
… which, frankly, was always going to be the case to some extent.
Remember, they only have to flip nine to win the majority.
So yeah, Texas.
Two years ago, it was hard to conceive including the state on any kind of single-election flip list.
But in November of 2018, Democrats picked up 12 seats, and voila! Here we are.
And speaking of where we are …
Congrats on slogging through all of that!
Arizona House: Tossup.
Arizona Senate: Tossup.
Michigan House: Tossup.
Minnesota Senate: Likely D.
North Carolina House: Lean R.
North Carolina Senate: Likely R.
Pennsylvania House: Lean R.
Texas House: Tossup.
Just 19 more days before … well, before we won’t actually yet know which party will have majority control of some of these chambers.
Because so many state legislative races are decided each year by 100 votes or so (or fewer!), don’t expect to know where all of these states stand by the time you go to bed on election night.
It’ll take days to have full results. At least. Maybe even weeks.
That’s normal, and that’s okay.
But when all is said and done, I predict Democrats will flip at least four legislative chamber majorities.
If it’s an amazing night, Dems could flip seven.
They may only net three to six because of the Alaska shenanigans I explained up top, but a House majority in Texas means a lot more to the future of either party than a House majority in Alaska. (Sorry, Alaska. You're great and I love your deadly bears.)
But Alaska weirdness notwithstanding, Democrats aren’t actually really playing defense anywhere this year.
And there may be some sleeper flips—Iowa House, e.g. It’s a long shot, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Also … the Republican State Leadership Committee is making some spending decisions that could be defined as … questionable?
The RSLC is targeting the chamber’s Minority Leader, and it’s always fun to decapitate the opposition, but … this is really how Republicans are spending money?
Almost $700,000, they claim.
To flip a single seat in a Deep South chamber they hold 105-74?
Y’all I just don’t know
Well, that’s my spread (tarot joke!) for 2020 state legislative elections.
I’m a notorious pragmatist when it comes to these contests, and I hope my prediction of just four chamber flips is something we all laugh at me for in the weeks following the election when it turns out to be actually, like, 10.
It’s not going to be 10
Oh, and just because I’m not talking about Republican lawmakers in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin pulling shenanigans with electors and mail-in ballots to throw presidential election results into chaos doesn’t mean I’m not still super worried about it.
You can see me talk about how doggone worried I am about it on this week’s episode of The Brief, Daily Kos’ new politics show (my bit starts at 29:25), if you have time time to kill and need a laugh from looking at all the weird faces I make.
(The whole ep is really quite excellent—the amazing Elie Mystal is a tough act to follow for sure!)