(CNN)A Democratic organization plans to pour $15 million into key state legislative races across the country, operatives with the group tell CNN, money that will influence races that could tilt the balance in states that will be key to redistricting in the coming years.
The super PAC, Forward Majority, plans to target races in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona — four of the states where Republicans are in control of both chambers of the state legislatures. The focus on Sun Belt states highlights a belief among Democrats that the rejection of President Donald Trump by traditional Republicans, especially in the suburbs, could lead the party to wins in what have traditionally been GOP strongholds.State legislative races are particularly important in 2020 because the candidates elected to the state bodies in November are sure to play roles in redrawing 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.Visit CNN’s Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 raceForward Majority was launched in 2017 explicitly to take back state legislatures for Democrats ahead of 2021 redistricting.Read More”Without having a seat at the table next year, we will likely see an unprecedented level of gerrymandering,” said Forward Majority co-founder Vicky Hausman, who argued that these four states “represent the most powerful points of leverage in our democracy.”In Texas, Republicans have a so-called trifecta, where the party controls the governor’s mansion and both the state legislative chambers. But Democrats are hopeful the changes in Texas’ growing suburbs could lead them to take control of the state House. It’s a tall order: Democrats need to flip at least nine seats to take control of the state House for the first time since 2000.To do that, Forward Majority plans to spend $6.2 million towards television, mail and digital ads on 18 state house races in the state, the largest commitment the group is making this cycle.Republicans in Arizona also enjoy a trifecta, but their control of both the state Senate and state House are significantly narrower, with the party only holding a four-seat advantage in the Senate and two seats in the House.The super PAC will spend $2.8 million on independent expenditures on six Senate and five House races in Arizona, hoping that the increased spending as well as more attention from the presidential race could tip the balance in the swing state.Forward Majority will also spend $2.5 million on ads in 19 state House races in Florida, another state where Republicans are in control of both the state Senate and state House.And in North Carolina, the group will donate $250,000 to Put NC First, an independent expenditure working to flip the state Senate and House.Biden is competitive in these four states, operatives from Forward Majority said, allowing the group to pour millions into these races because they believe those efforts will be boosted by spending on higher profile races.But David Cohen, the group’s other co-founder, added that the decision to invest heavily in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida directly stems from two political shifts — the suburban rejection of Trump and the demographic shifts in these three states.”Since the lines were drawn after the 2010 census, the gerrymander has really become muted and that is part of what creates the opportunity here,” Cohen said, pointing to those two factors. “You’ve got districts that have just fundamentally changed in the last 10 years. (These districts are) still being represented by real right wing conservative Republicans who don’t fit with the districts anymore.”State legislatures were long ignored by Democrats as Republicans spent millions to control the legislative bodies, leading Democrats to lose around 1,000 legislative seats in state house races during Barack Obama’s presidency.Despite a Democratic fundraising surge ahead of November’s election, Democratic legislative candidates remain underfunded, Cohen and Hausman said.”That is exactly why we exist … to pick up some of that slack,” said Hausman. “The money isn’t showing up in the most important places.”That changed after 2016, when a series of groups — including Forward Majority — were created to address the issue. Another was the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group spearheaded by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which has endorsed a series of candidates in states like Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas and spend millions in the local races.