(Forgive me, for I have Substacked. This newsletter's new home is here.)
I know it’s been a while.
I missed you!
But I’m back and honestly super excited to share my inaugural TWISA at COURIER Newsroom with y’all!
If you’re looking for old editions of this missive for some reason, they all live here. If you’re looking for even older editions, they live here. If you’re looking for REAL old school editions … well, they live in my Sent folder, but I’ll forward them to you if you really want.
Fair warning … The news isn’t any happier than it was way back in April.
With less than two months to go, we’re officially staring down the barrel of Election Day, and it’s actually extremely factual to say that, in this post-Dobbs world, the stakes in state legislative elections all across the country have never been higher.
Notwithstanding Lindsey Graham’s epic own goal in unveiling a 15-week abortion ban in the U.S. Senate, reproductive freedom–and the lack thereof–is now completely under state control.
And the abrupt loss of the abortion rights granted by Roe v. Wade has galvanized both progressive and women voters all across the country, making the previously predicted midterm GOP romp a far dimmer prospect for Republicans at every level of the ballot.
Democratic donations and spending are correspondingly ramping up to take full advantage of this swing in voter enthusiasm.
So, time for a quick quiz. Or just a guessing game, no pressure.
How much money has the Democratic National Committee donated to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), the party committee charged with electing Democrats to state legislatures and winning Democratic majorities that will protect reproductive freedom now that Roe has been overruled?
Nope, that’s how much the DNC has given to committees that work to elect Democratic U.S. Senators and House members–$7.5 million to the DSCC, $7.5 million to the DCCC.
Nah, that’s how much the DNC has invested in state party infrastructure–most of which goes towards helping elect federal and statewide candidates (don’t get it twisted–governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state are important, too!).
In the vast majority of states, the caucus operations and campaign committees that support and elect legislators operate independently of state parties (partly because of legal constraints, partly because of tradition/old habits–the reasons are as varied as the 50 separate sets of campaign finance laws governing state-level elections).
Sorry, that’s how much Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath raised in her bid to unseat Mitch McConnell in 2020–only to lose to the GOP U.S. Senate Leader 38-58%.
Okay okay, enough with the guessing.
…but if you guessed a big fat load of nothing, congratulations!
It’s true; the DNC has donated exactly $0 to the DLCC this cycle.
The DLCC itself is boasting record fundraising, but the committee continues to trail its GOP counterpart, the Republican State Leadership Committee.
… although that’s admittedly comparing apples to Volvos; RSLC is an umbrella org that includes
Republican Legislative Campaign Committee;
Republican Lieutenant Governors Association
Republican Secretaries of State Committee;
Ag America (no, not AG–RAGA split off from the RSLC in 2014), which works to elect GOP agriculture officials; and
the ironically named Judicial Fairness Initiative, which helps elect Republicans to state courts.
Good news on that front, at least–JFI has long lacked a Democratic counterpart, but DLCC is reportedly spending in judicial elections for the first time ever this year.
Meanwhile, while national committees and rich donors continue to give downballot elections short shrift, GOP-controlled state legislatures have wasted little time destroying reproductive freedom in states they control.
In West Virginia (House: 22 D/78 R; Senate: 11 D/ 23 R), Republican lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban this week that will go into effect as soon as GOP Gov. Jim Justice signs it.
The Indiana legislature (House: 31 D/ 69 R; Senate: 11 D/39 R) passed a near total abortion ban last month; it went into effect this Thursday.
Republicans in South Carolina (House: 43 D/79 R; Senate: 16 D/29 R) got this close to passing a near-total abortion ban earlier this month–and likely still will, it’s a matter of working out some details–but were blocked by the threat of a filibuster.
… from a Republican.
Because his daughters helped him realize that he shouldn’t vote to make the state’s current six-week (before most folks even know they’re pregnant) abortion ban (which is currently blocked and under review by the state Supreme Court) stricter “because women have rights, too.”
you don’t say
And all this is after GOP lawmakers in 13 states didn’t have to lift a finger to ban abortion after Roe was struck down.
Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming all have “trigger laws” that functionally banned abortion as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated it as a right.
As an erudite consumer of this missive, surely I don’t have to tell you what else those 13 states have in common.
… but I will anyway
Those 13 states all have GOP-controlled legislatures.
And even with all the money in the world, that probably won’t change any time soon.
Now that primaries are over and ballots are being printed, we know exactly who’s running for state legislative seats this year–and what party they’re from.
Thus, we also know how many folks are running for these seats with no opposition from the other party.
This is not to cast aspersions on anyone or any committee or any group–it’s simply the reality of a world where another round of mostly GOP-controlled gerrymandering resulted in fewer competitive state legislatures.
In 22 state legislative chambers across 15 states (23 and 16 if you include Nebraska, which I don’t, because it’s ostensibly nonpartisan), we already know which party will control them, no matter what happens on Election Day, because of the number of folks running unopposed.
Republicans are guaranteed majority control of 19 chambers:
North Dakota House
North Dakota Senate
South Dakota Senate
West Virginia Senate
Democrats are guaranteed majority control of … three.
Without a single vote cast!
But lawmakers aren’t the only things folks in some states can vote for.
Fun fact! Twenty-five states have ballot initiative and/or veto referendum processes.
It used to be 26, but then the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that no petition can meet the state’s congressional district distribution requirement, which stipulates that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.”
… which is literally impossible, since Mississippi hasn’t had five congressional districts since 2000.
Anyway, abortion is literally on the ballot in six states this year–an all-time high!
In Kansas, voters already rejected an amendment that would have abrogated any interpretation of the state constitution to establish a constitutional right to abortion.
That leaves five states for November:
In Kentucky, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment similar to Kansas’.
In Montana, voters will likely approve a measure that would classify a born-alive infant as "a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the state ... entitled to the protections of the laws, including the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment" and require infants that are born alive after an induced labor, a cesarean section, an attempted abortion, or another method to receive medical care.
In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in those states’ constitutions.
Okay, I’m going to leave you with a bit of good news (... sorta) you might have missed a couple weeks back–but mostly just as a reminder of how incredibly important judicial races are (you know, the ones Republicans have a whole party org committed to funding?).
In the back half of August, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that, because the state legislature was unconstitutionally (racially) gerrymandered, Republican lawmakers maybe didn't actually have the power to approve amendments to the state constitution and put them before voters.
The decision, which the court's 4-3 Democratic majority issued along party lines, (mostly)n ends a four-year battle over these amendments–and over the authority of the gerrymandered North Carolina legislature.
The majority’s reasoning: Lawmakers who won their seats through unconstitutional racial gerrymandering can’t turn around and submit constitutional amendments that would permanently disadvantage the same groups that were discriminated against in the racial gerrymandering process.
I mean, makes sense, yeah?
You may recall that, in the long-ago time of 2017, 28 legislative districts were struck down after federal courts found they illegally discriminated against Black voters.
But since when has that stopped Republicans from doing whatever they want?
The GOP lawmakers who had been elected under those unconstitutional maps used their ill-gotten legislative gains to place their amendments on the ballot in 2018–one to require photo voter ID and another to cap any state income tax at 7%--which likely wouldn't have been possible without the extra seats the GOP gained by gerrymandering Black voters.
Both amendments were ultimately approved, by the by.
The court stopped short of granting the plaintiffs' requests to strike down the two amendments outright, instead returning the case to the trial court, though its framing of the dispute suggests the state courts will ultimately invalidate the amendments.
Needless to say, Republicans both on and off the court were livid over the majority’s ruling.
The dissent hurled ferocious invectives at the motives of the majority, and GOP lawmakers were Big Mad.
GOP House Speaker Tim Moore decried the ruling as a "judicial coup" and vowed to fight the decision, including potentially appealing it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But … he might not have to.
(Hence the … sorta above.)
Republicans have the chance to functionally reverse this ruling at the ballot box in November, when two Democratic seats on the state Supreme Court are up.
Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV faces Republican attorney Trey Allen, while Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman is trying to hold onto an open Democratic seat against Republican Court of Appeals judge Richard Dietz.
If Republicans win either of these two seats, they’ll regain the court majority that they lost in 2016, paving the way for a reversal not only in this case but in many others—reversals that would threaten a multitude of rights protected over the past several years by that Democratic Supreme Court majority and Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto pen.
so many elections, so little time
Welp, that’s a wrap for my newsletter comeback!
I appreciate you hanging in.
I appreciate you.
So take good care of yourself, yeah?
You’re important, and we need you.