The Democratic Party is poised to launch a historically expensive campaign to keep control of state legislatures in anticipation that lawmakers in those chambers will play a crucial role in redrawing the federal electoral map in 2011.
In a memo sent to Democratic leaders and activists on Monday, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee's Executive Director Michael Sargeant highlighted 15 key battlegrounds for the 2010 election and called for the establishment of a $20 million "Redistricting Fund" to help the party win those races.
"The DLCC is determined to run the largest democratic redistricting mobilization in history this year to ensure that our state legislative candidates have the resources needed to win against well-heeled Republican special interests," according to the memo, which was passed by a Democratic source to the Huffington Post. "To make this possible, we have established the DLCC's Redistricting Fund to deploy $20 million to races that will have the greatest impact on reapportionment."
The size of the proposed fund would place the DLCC in a position of financial strength unprecedented in the group's history. For the 2006 cycle, the DLCC raised about $10 million, an aide said. In 2008, donations totaled $12 million.
"The DLCC is focused on helping our state lawmakers win across the country because we know that if Democrats don't fight to control redistricting, Republicans will draw us out of power everywhere they can," the DLCC's Communications Director Matt Compton told the Huffington Post. "This is certainly more than we have ever spent on any election before. It is a number that we really hope we can get to this year and one we think we will, because we need to spend an unprecedented amount in this election."
Following the census results in 2010, each state will reevaluate and potentially redraw its congressional map in early 2011. In 36 of those states, authority for the task is placed in the hands of the legislature -- whether it's the ability to make recommendations for redistricting, actually draw the new lines or override decisions made by the governor or an independent body.
For some time, the Republican Party has viewed the process with a clear-cut political objective of retaking federal power. "We could feasibly see 25 to 30 congressional seats swing as a result of redistricting," Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association told the Huffington Post in July.
But much of that will depend on the results of state elections. In his memo, Sargeant noted that there are "21 chambers in 17 states" that "are within five seats of changing hands." Those 17 states had the power to potentially shape 198 congressional districts.
After a series of electoral wins in recent years, Democrats control more legislative seats but also have more turf to defend. And in his memo, Sargeant highlighted ten potential swing chambers where the party is on the defense compared to five for the GOP.
The ten potential Democratic "swing" chambers are: the Alabama State Senate, Colorado State Senate, Indiana House, Nevada State Senate, New Hampshire State Senate, New York State Senate, Ohio House, Pennsylvania House, Wisconsin Assembly and the Wisconsin State Senate.
Those five potential Republican "swing" chambers are: the Michigan State Senate, Missouri House, Oklahoma State Senate, Tennessee House, and the Texas House.
"The results of the 2010 state legislative elections will define how key reforms and policies are decided for the next decade," Sargeant wrote.
Read the full memo: