Strengthen democracy in the states
Strengthening our democracy and winning the fight over voting rights begins in the states. Swing Left’s 10-year plan in the states requires us to set short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Our target selection in 2022 prioritizes states where winning competitive governorships has the greatest potential to help protect democratic outcomes in 2024, or states where Democrats have a clear chance to flip legislative chambers and make durable gains.
5 gubernatorial targets
7 state legislative targets
Our strategy for building Democratic power in the states centers around three goals:
- Win Democratic governorships in key swing states that hold important federal elections to help protect our democracy;
- Build Democratic power in key state legislatures to win majorities and expand access to the ballot;
- Ultimately, win majority control over the partisan redistricting process in 2030.
Swing Left is supporting five gubernatorial races in 2022. We are supporting the reelection campaign of Governor Evers in Wisconsin and preparing for competitive races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and Georgia by raising early money for the eventual nominees and supporting early organizing. Electing Democrats in these gubernatorial races is critical because all five states will continue to host highly consequential federal elections in the years to come. Winning in these states provides a check against further attempts at voter suppression and protection against any attempts at election subversion in 2024.
Swing Left will continue to monitor the field and place additional target races on the map depending on circumstances on the ground.
Donate to Swing Left’s full slate of gubernatorial targets. If you've saved your payment info with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:
Democratic defense races:
Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf has been one of the most important governors in the country in fighting against a gerrymandered, ultra-conservative state legislature. His leadership through the 2020 election perfectly exemplifies why winning governorships is so important to preserving our democracy. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf is term-limited this year, putting an open seat on the map in one of the nation’s most competitive states. This seat is a must-win for Democrats in 2022 to prevent future attempts at voter suppression and election subversion.
Support the nominee
Wisconsin was the “tipping point” state in both 2020 and 2016, delivering razor-thin margins to the winner of both presidential elections. Governor Tony Evers flipped this seat in 2018 by just 1.1%, unseating incumbent, arch-conservative Gov. Scott Walker (R). Gov. Evers will be in for another competitive race in 2022, with the state leaning more Republican at the state level than the federal level over the past decade. Holding this seat will be essential in preventing further voter suppression efforts by the overwhelmingly Republican, gerrymandered legislature, as Governor Evers’ veto has been the only thing preventing a host of anti-voting bills from passing in one of the nation’s most important presidential battlegrounds.
Support Gov. Evers
Flippable GOP races:
This year, Arizona has the best chance to elect a Democratic governor since 2006 when then-Governor Janet Napolitano won a second term. With Republican Governor Doug Ducey term-limited, Democrats are poised to take advantage of the open-seat election in a state Biden narrowly carried in 2020. Winning in Arizona will still be challenging though, as voters have traditionally favored Republican candidates for state offices. With the state being the epicenter of the attempted “audit” to delegitimize the results of the 2020 election, winning the governorship will be critical to protecting democracy in a pivotal swing state.
The only thing more competitive than a presidential race in Florida is a governor’s race in Florida. The last three gubernatorial elections have been decided by an average of less than one percentage point. The stakes in the Sunshine State have also increased in recent years. With incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis (R) leading the charge to restrict absentee voting and reimpose restrictions on the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals, Democrats’ most viable path to prevent further restrictions on voting is to win the Governor’s mansion in 2022.
Georgia will likely once again be the center of the political universe with marquee Senate and gubernatorial races in 2022. Democrats sweeping Georgia’s federal races in 2020 began with their razor-thin defeat in the 2018 midterm elections. New voters continued to stay engaged after the election and showed up two years later to deliver Joe Biden and Senate Democrats a decisive victory. Democrats will need to continue engaging those voters and bring new voters into the fold to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and prevent further voter suppression efforts in one of the nation’s newest premier battleground states.
Races to watch
We will be monitoring a group of races to see how the circumstances on the ground develop and may add them to our list throughout the course of the cycle. Gubernatorial races are notoriously dependent on candidate quality, and in such a complex cycle it is absolutely critical our efforts go where they are needed most. Those races that we are watching most closely include: Iowa (R), Michigan (D), and Ohio (R). We will continue to evaluate potential additions to our lists of targets and races to watch on a quarterly basis.
State Legislative Targets
Swing Left is supporting state legislative candidates in seven target states in 2022. We will be seeking to flip state legislative chambers in three states: Arizona, Michigan, and New Hampshire. In our four other target states, we aim to gain ground and win key races that will set Democrats up to flip key chambers in the coming years. Because of the delayed redistricting calendar, we do not yet have a final list of target districts.
At the state legislative level, we know that Democrats are not only up against gerrymandering, but also a Republican electoral machine that has dominated this level of the ballot for a decade. Our job is not only to help Democrats win in 2022, but also to build and sustain Democratic legislative delegations over the coming decade.
Donate to Swing Left’s full slate of state legislative targets. If you've saved your payment info with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:
Flippable GOP targets:
Democrats came close to flipping both chambers of the Arizona Legislature in 2020, falling just one seat short of a 50-50 split in both chambers. In response, Republicans have doubled down on an extremist right-wing agenda, acting to restrict absentee voting by removing voters from the Permanent Early Voting List and ordering an audit of the election in Maricopa County in search of fraud. Democrats have a second opportunity to flip both chambers in 2022.
Republicans in the Michigan state legislature have also pursued new restrictions to voting in the wake of the 2020 election and are attempting to circumvent Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s veto through an arcane rule that would allow them to pass a host of restrictions through a majority vote in the legislature if they collect enough signatures. Democrats will be able to pursue the majority in both the state house and state senate to stop this attempt at voter suppression in its tracks, and work with Governor Whitmer to expand access to the ballot.
Republicans flipped the New Hampshire legislature in 2020 on the back of incumbent Governor Chris Sununu’s (R) popularity, but Democrats will have the opportunity to take both chambers’ majorities back in 2022. New Hampshire has long been a difficult state to vote in, particularly for college students, and Republican lawmakers are looking at ways to make it even more difficult, including potentially purging voters from the rolls, requiring additional identification, and eliminating same-day voter registration.
“Gain ground” targets:
Georgia, the epicenter of voter suppression efforts in 2021, is a high-priority target for Democrats’ longer term efforts to build power in the states given how dramatically the electorate has shifted in recent years. The imperative to continue fighting back against voter suppression is made even more urgent by the clear opportunity Democrats have in front of them: nine Republican state representatives currently represent districts carried by Biden in 2020. While redistricting will certainly change that number, it is clear that Democrats can begin making up ground just by working harder to reach out to Biden voters about down-ballot candidates.
While Democrats won huge gains in 2018, breaking Republican supermajorities in the legislature, they suffered a setback in 2020 in the state house and still have a ways to go in the state senate. But this perennial battleground state has been the site of countless battles over democratic principles, including some of the nation’s most egregious examples of partisan and racial gerrymandering and discriminatory voter ID laws. Winning a majority in the coming years will be critical to expanding access to the ballot in a critical swing state.
Pennsylvania was the state that delivered Joe Biden the presidency and, predictably, Pennsylvania Republicans have called for greater voting restrictions in return. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s veto protects the Keystone State at the moment, but Pennsylvania’s election system is badly under-resourced as a result of being systematically undermined by the Republicans in the General Assembly. Pending redistricting outcomes, it is critical to build a pathway to the majority in Pennsylvania in order to rebuild the state’s election infrastructure and avoid another dangerous counting process like 2020.
Texas quickly became the next battleground over voting rights after Georgia in early 2021, with Republicans moving to redistribute polling places away from Democratic regions, restrict mail-in voting, and curtail early voting. While Democrats were able to stall the passage of the bill, Texas Republicans have vowed to pass the voter suppression package through a special session. However, pending the redistricting outcome, Democrats should still have a viable pathway to the majority in the state house in the next few cycles. Democrats came within just over 20,000 votes across 9 districts of winning the majority in 2020.
Candidate reevaluation timeline and additional criteria
We will be evaluating all targets on a rolling basis as soon as their district maps are finished. We will also be incorporating additional data, such as polling, electoral modeling, and campaign finance reports in order to determine how to prioritize among our targets as new data becomes available to us.
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