As Republicans across the country work to take back the House of Representatives, some Democrats are focusing their efforts elsewhere — on flipping the statehouse.
One Democratic group, Forward Majority, is sending funding and resources to legislative races in three states that could be crucial to deciding the presidential election in 2024: Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“If you look across the landscape, Republicans have full control of state legislatures in states totaling 307 electoral votes, which includes every single major battleground state,” Vicky Hausman, founder and co-CEO of Forward Majority told NBC News.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Democrats fully control 17 state legislatures (including the swing state of Nevada), Republicans control 30 statehouses (including total control of the Wisconsin and Florida legislatures) and 2 states have divided control (like Minnesota, where Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate.
Forward Majority joins other groups, like the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, who have been working to gain ground for Democrats in state races for years.
In 2020, the Republican State Legislative Committee, which works to elect Republicans to statewide seats and state legislatures, spent over $45 million on their efforts. In July, the RSLC had already raised $53 million.
The group is actively working to defend their majorities in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they hope to flip legislatures in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, too.
In a recent release, the RSLC pointed to the economy as a motivating factor for voters this fall, with RSLC Communications Director Andrew Romeo noting that, "Americans headed to the polls ... will be turning to state Republicans who are committed to cutting red tape and putting money back into the hands of hardworking Americans to create economies that work for everyone.”
Hausman’s group has identified just 25 state legislative races — including Arizona's 4th Legislative District and Michigan's 4 Senate District — across these three states that it thinks could shift the balance of power for the whole country. They’re in mostly suburban, moderate areas where Forward Majority has spent months testing advertising campaigns and conducting focus groups to figure out what might sway voters to not only care about their down-ballot races, but to also vote for Democrats.
“Dobbs changed everything,” Hausman said, noting that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate federal abortion protections could boost Democrats running on a pro-abortion platform.
She noted that her group’s testing found that messaging about constitutional freedoms and abortion resonated with voters across the districts Forward Majority is targeting.
“It’s really hard in this country, and probably in the world, to take away a right that’s been given,” Hausman said.
She added that this kind of messaging about abortion, similar to the kind in Democratic ads in Kansas ahead of their July referendum on abortion, has swayed groups not typically compelled to vote because of threats to abortion access, like non-religious men and Republican-leaning women.
But, issues like abortion and voting rights aren’t the only reason Forward Majority and other Democratic groups are focused on flipping state legislatures. They’re growing more concerned about the independent legislature doctrine. It’s the idea that the Constitution grants state legislatures full authority to control elections.
Four Supreme Court justices have publicly affirmed the independent legislature doctrine and it could come up in a case on their docket for the upcoming term. If the Supreme Court endorses this doctrine in their upcoming case, it could give state legislatures total control over election laws and redistricting moving forward.
Following the 2020 election, voters in two states, Arizona and Michigan, saw efforts by Republicans to send an alternate slate of electors to certify the presidential election. If these efforts were successful, they would have effectively overturned the will of the voters in both states, who elected Democratic President Joe Biden, Hausman claimed.