Sunday, January 12, 2014

Your local legislative election could be influenced by money and strategies of national organizations

Elections for seats in a state legislature — especially House seats, which have smaller districts than Senate seats — are often essentially local elections, based in large measure on personal knowledge of the candidates. The more that state issues and outside money become involved, the more likely the election results are to follow state and national trends. In the last few years, a flood of national money has nationalized these local elections and created more single-party control of state legislatures and governments, The New York Times reports in the first of a series of articles on one-party states.

Writer Nicholas Confessore's object examples are three states: "Alabama’s transformation was the product, in part, of a sophisticated political apparatus designed to channel political money from around the country into states where conditions were ripe for Republican takeover. In 2010, the effort achieved striking success, moving a dozen states to sole Republican control, including presidential swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 2012, a resurgent Democratic version — financed chiefly by labor unions and wealthy liberal donors rather than corporations — began to catch up, spearheading Democratic takeovers in Minnesota and Colorado. Their combined work has helped remake the nation’s political landscape. Republicans or Democrats control both the legislature and the governor’s office in 36 states, the most in 60 years." (NYT graphic; click on it to enlarge; for interactive version, click here)
Confessore acknowledges the influence of many other factors, but reports that "The strategic deployment of campaign cash has helped consultants and donors accelerate or arrest states’ natural drift toward one party or the other, defying national election trends or voter registration advantages." He quotes Republican strategist Ed Gillespie: “People who want to see policies enacted, and see things tried, are moving their activity to the states, and away from Washington. There is a sense that you can get things done.” That includes redistricting, which has probably allowed Republicans to ensure GOP control of the U.S. House through 2022.

Almost every state has legislative elections this year. If your state has a legislature where a switch in party control is more that theoretically possible, the elections in your legislative districts could be targets for outside money, strategies and tactics. Confessore's article explains in detail how that works. Read the story.

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