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Democrats plan state legislative firewalls after abortion ruling leak

Democrats are preparing to spend more money than ever to defend majorities in key state legislative chambers across the country, a mission top strategists say was made all the more critical after a draft Supreme Court opinion striking down the federal right to an abortion leaked earlier this week.

In a memo outlining its top priorities, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) said its chief mission was to preserve the party’s majorities in state legislatures in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and New Mexico — all states where incumbent Democratic governors face re-election this year.

The DLCC also plans to spend on critical races in Minnesota, where Republicans control the state Senate, and Michigan and New Hampshire, where the GOP controls both chambers of the legislature.

“We’re clear-eyed about the tough fight ahead,” said Jessica Post, the DLCC’s president. “We need to invest in durable Democratic majorities that can withstand Republican targeting and spending.”

Post told reporters that this week’s leak of a draft opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, upholding a Mississippi law that bans abortions more than 15 weeks after conception and striking down both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has put an added pressure on their bids to preserve legislative seats.

Post said visits to the DLCC’s website were up twelve-fold since the report, and that the group had its best online fundraising day of the year the day after the document leaked.

“There’s certainly a lot of grassroots enthusiasm going into the states to protect Roe v. Wade,” Post said. “The stakes are higher because we need to see abortion rights protected.”

Democrats are still trying to climb off the mat after drubbings in state legislative elections in 2010, defeats that allowed Republicans to control the redistricting process in many states, a process the GOP used to effectively lock in their majority status for most of the rest of the decade.

Today, Republicans control both chambers of the legislature in 30 states, while Democrats hold control in 17. Legislative chambers in two states — Minnesota and Virginia — are divided between the parties, near an historic low and a sign of the increasing partisanship that drives American politics.

The last state, Nebraska, has an ostensibly nonpartisan unicameral legislature, though in practice the state Senate there is dominated by Republicans.

After that Republican wave a dozen years ago, and the subsequent remapping process that gave the GOP such an edge, Democrats have struggled to make progress.

Republicans controlled 3,979 state House and Senate seats after the 2010 elections; today, they hold exactly the same number. Democrats controlled 3,314 seats after those elections, and 3,303 today. There are about ten more independent or other-party legislators around the country than there were a decade ago.

Measured by control of the legislature, Republicans today hold power in 63 chambers including Nebraska, up just one from a decade ago; Democrats control 37, the same number they held after the 2010 elections.

The list of states where Democrats believe they can make progress underscores the reality of a difficult partisan environment. In the 2020 presidential elections, Democrats targeted Republican-controlled chambers in states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania; the memo produced by the DLCC this week lists Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania as longer-shot chances, but makes no mention of Texas and Florida.

“We see the Sun Belt as an area of key growth long term. We are looking at Texas across the decade. We are also looking at Florida across the decade. But we need to balance our resources,” Post said.

Republicans said the DLCC’s memo reflected the realities of a harsh political environment for the party that holds the White House.

“Even the DLCC is now admitting that Joe Biden is dragging down state Democrat’s and that they are in huge trouble ahead of November,” said Andrew Romeo, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee, the DLCC’s GOP counterpart.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Abortion democratic legislative campaign committee dlcc Roe v. Wade Samuel Alito

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