Holder-backed redistricting group pours more money into key state legislature races

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee announced on Tuesday that it will pour $1 million into a series of legislative races, hoping the influx of money and national endorsement will help tilt the balance in states that will be key to the fight over redistricting in the coming years.

The committee, which is chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder, is endorsing and backing 100 candidates in eight states: Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. All of the candidates have signed the group’s pledge, which says they “pledge to support fair redistricting that ends map manipulation and creates truly representative districts.”

State legislative races are particularly important this year because the candidates elected to the state bodies in November will play a significant role in deciding the congressional and legislative maps for the next decade. Because many states rely on the state lawmakers to draw congressional and state legislative maps, the party that controls a state legislature will have more influence and, in some cases, the ability to draw maps that help their party win for the next 10 years.

“There is no question that the next decade of our democracy is on the ballot in November. This is the last cycle that is going to determine who is at the table during the redistricting process when congressional and state legislative districts get redrawn in 2021,” said Kelly Ward, president of the committee. “This is our last chance to elect candidates to the state legislatures around the country.”

The group said it believes the investments into races that often fly below the national radar and fail to garner much outside spending will boost candidates dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has altered the way campaigns are conducted and forced campaigns to invest heavily in online organizing and fundraising.

“This November will be the most important election of our lives,” Holder said, “not just at the presidential level, but also with regard to state legislative races that will shape the next decade of America’s politics.”

Republicans successfully implemented a strategy that focused on state legislative races ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, flipping 20 state chambers from Democratic to Republican control and helping the party redraw maps that favored their party. Many of the maps Republicans drew following the 2010 midterms have led to legal challenges, including some that made their way to the Supreme Court.

Ward said that the Supreme Court’s decision to allow partisan gerrymandering to continue has made clear that “focusing on states and the implication for the down ballot races is super important.”

The group sees their donations falling into three categories.

The first is large states where Republicans are in control of the redistricting process. That is why the group is donating $124,000 to Florida state legislative candidates and $165,000 to support Texas House candidates, as well as donations in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where the group plans to back House Democratic and Senate candidates with $100,000, respectively.

The second is states where the groups feels they can either push or prevent super majorities in the legislative bodies, like Wisconsin, where the group will spend $45,000 to back Wisconsin House candidates, $34,000 for Wisconsin Senate candidates and $17,000 for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and Kansas, where the group is investing $13,000 in efforts to support Kansas House candidates.

And the last is a state like Minnesota, where the group hopes that tilting the state legislatures more toward Democrats will allow them to avoid going to the courts to draw congressional and legislative maps.

The newly announced influx of money brings the total investment this cycle by the redistricting committee and its affiliates, like National Democratic Redistricting PAC, to $2 million, the group said.

The money, said Garrett Arwa, the group’s director of campaigns, is particularly needed right now because of the impact coronavirus has had on down-ballot races.

“The economic impact that Covid has had across the country has really impacted the ability for campaigns to raise small and medium dollars,” Arwa said, adding that in some states, coronavirus has forced state legislatures to stay in session longer, cutting into the time candidates would have otherwise used to raise money.