Editor's Note: This post has been updated.
Given the reported chaos on Capitol Hill regarding the speakership, I guess liberals could pop open the champagne and gloat about how the governing party cannot pick a leader. Actually, that is a disconcerting aspect of this whole saga. Republicans have the most House seats since 1929, but are unable to pick a new speaker of the House. Nevertheless, a new speaker will be selected, and the business of the day will continue. Moreover, Republicans can take sober satisfaction knowing that the party is going to run the table concerning finding quality candidates for future elections. The simple fact is that the GOP cares about state and local races; Democrats do not–and it’s done major damage concerning pushing their progressive agenda. In all, Obama will leave his party in its worst shape at the state and local level since the Great Depression, as Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico. The position Democrats have found themselves in during the Obama era can only be described as horrific.
“It’s almost a crime…we have been absolutely decimated at the state and local level,” said Democratic Party Vice Chair Donna Brazile.
Here’s the sad, sad state of the Democratic Party:
Now turn to state legislatures—although if you’re a loyal Democrat, you may want to avert your eyes. In 2009, Democrats were in full control of 27 state legislatures; Republicans held full power in 14. Now? The GOP is in full control of 30 state legislatures; Democrats hold full power in just 11. In 24 states, Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature—giving them total control over the political process. That increased power at the state level has already led to serious consequences for Democrats, for their political future and for their goals.
“We are fooling ourselves,” says one well-placed Democratic operative, “if we think we can advance a progressive agenda in Washington, if half the Congress and half the states are controlled by a Republican Party enthusiastically working to undo every trace of progressive policy.”
For longtime Democratic operative Joe Trippi, the problems began at the end of the 1980s, when Republicans, after decades in the minority, “put everything in their energy and funding towards solving their problems in winning the House of Representatives. And [in 1994] it worked. And they also recruited for state races—we didn’t. None of the Washington committees of the Democratic Party really gave a damn who was running for attorney general or secretary of state.”
The article also touched upon the fact that the current Democratic congressional leadership is very, very old–like the age where one takes up residence at the Home of the Merciful Rest retirement home.
Yet, I get it; state and local races aren’t the most exciting, or ones covered most by the press, though ironically–it’s the policies enacted at this level that have the most immediate impact on one’s personal finances. Nevertheless, it’s also at this level where congressional districts are drawn, which is why organizations, like the Republican State Leadership Committee, have a $125 million effort over the next several years to hold current Republican gains in the state legislatures, while also fighting to gain ground in the Democratic controlled Colorado House, Kentucky House, Washington House, Iowa Senate, Minnesota Senate, and New Mexico Senate.
The RSLC also has the Future Majority Project aimed at electing men and women from diverse communities (yes, liberal media Republicans values transcend race, religion, and ethnicity)–and the Right Women, Right Now project aimed at recruiting more women for state and local offices. For Right Women, Right Now, they’re aiming to recruit some 500 women candidates, and hope to see 150 elected into office. The FMP goal aims to find 250 candidates for elected office, and hope 50 see themselves sworn into their respective offices.
In Virginia’s state elections, the RSLC has devoted $100,000 to the Virginia House of Delegates races in their own backyard. The party already enjoys a supermajority in the Old Dominion. Nevertheless, Sang Yi running in the 37th District, Jason Miyares running in the 82nd District, Danny Vargas running in the 86th District, Chuong Nguyen running in the 87th District, and Lara Overy running in the 93rd District can all expect some cash coming their way. Former RNC chair, RSLC Chairman Emeritus, and future Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie said:
“The strength and diversity of Virginia’s Republican candidates this year is reflective of what we are seeing around the country, with outstanding Republican candidates who more closely reflect the electorate we seek to serve. These five delegate candidates are running on policies that will create more opportunities for their fellow Virginians. Their victories in November – combined with victories in the state senate – will go a long way in demonstrating that our Republican nominee for president will carry Virginia next year.
Concerning the state senate, it’s an entirely different story. The Republicans have a slim majority in that chamber. That’s why $250,000 is being spent on this defensive effort that ranks at the top of the RSLC’s list, with funds going to Glen Sturtevant, Senate District 10, Nancy Dye, Senate District 21, and Hal Parrish, Senate District 29.
The organization appears to have all the confidence with these three candidates, with RSLC president Matt Walter saying, “the quality of candidates Virginia Republicans have recruited for the senate this year cannot be overstated. By supporting these three exceptional candidates, we have a real chance to not only keep but expand the senate majority and add more commonsense, open and innovative conservatives to the Republican caucus in Richmond.”
Overall, the RSLC recently released their 15 in ’15 races to watch come November:
More on each candidate including bio, headshot and campaign website can be found here.
Jenean Hampton: Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Candidate
Julie Emerson: Louisiana House District 39 Candidate
Shane Aguirre: Mississippi House District 17 Candidate
Jenifer Branning: Mississippi Senate District 18 Candidate
Sang Yi: Virginia House District 37 Candidate
Anna Urman: Virginia House District 43 Candidate
Jason Miyares: Virginia House District 82 Candidate
Danny Vargas: Virginia House District 86 Candidate
Chuong Nguyen: Virginia House District 87 Candidate
Lara Overy: Virginia House District 93 Candidate
Amanda Chase: Virginia Senate District 11 Candidate
Siobhan Dunnavant: Virginia Senate District 12 Candidate
Nancy Dye: Virginia Senate District 21 Candidate
Teri Hickel: Washington House District 30B Candidate
Cindi Duchow: Wisconsin House District 99 Candidate
Republican supremacy at the state level has forced Democrats into a pickle regarding candidate recruitment for congressional races. There are a dozen competitive House seats next year, and in some cases, they can’t find anyone to run against the incumbent Republican. State races matter. Localities matter. As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Salena Zito wrote earlier this month, “22 of our 44 presidents came from state legislatures, including Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter.”
Yet, it’s not like the Democrats aren’t doing anything. They know about how congressional maps are drawn and redrawn, which leads us to their $70 million Advantage 2020 project. Greenfield also hinted at Democratic maneuverings to retake the ground they lost to Republicans, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and EMILY’s List starting a joint effort to get governors elected in states where that office has a say over the congressional maps. Donna Brazile and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have also launched a movement to get the Democratic grassroots re-energized for local elections. That might be a difficult feat given the bastions of power Republicans have built and maintained since the early 1990s.
So, it’s possible that Democrats could win in 2016 (lord help us!), but it might be their Little Bighorn if they can’t find anyone else who can succeed their aging leadership.