November 6, 2020
2020 Election Results: Early Analysis

We made it through November 3! Joe Biden is on track to win the election, and this country is poised to have our first ever woman and Black and Asian-American Vice President. As for Sister District, we are pleased to say that we are seeing the impact of our work in many important places. Check out our results highlights and early analysis below:

Sister District Drove Results for Dems in Key States

See the end of this post for some initial thoughts on how the political landscape and larger trends of this election year shaped Sister District’s outcomes. We’ve also now completed a deeper dive into the impact of gerrymandering, ticket-splitting/roll-off, and an enthusiasm/awareness gap for state legislative candidates. 

Here’s a bit more detail (note: results are as of 11/6):

2020 Election Toplines in Targeted Chambers

North Carolina: Democrats needed 5 to flip the senate and 6 to flip the house.

  • As of 11/6, Democrats netted 1 seat in the Senate, and lost 4 net seats in the House.
  • Our candidate for the NC Senate (Sarah Crawford) was one of the two red-to-blue flips in the chamber.
  • There were two red-to-blue flips in the NC House and both were Sister District candidates (Ricky Hurtado and Brian Farkas).
  • The three closest vote margins in the House were our endorsed candidates (Ricky Hurtado: +395; Brian Farkas: +814; Frances Jackson: -763, her race has not yet been called)

Michigan: Democrats needed 4 to flip the house.

Wisconsin: Democrats were down 14 in the Assembly.

Texas: Democrats needed 9 to flip the state house.

Florida: Democrats were down 14 in the House.

  • As of 11/6, Democrats have lost two seats in the house and did not flip seats red to blue.
  • Both incumbent and challenger Democratic candidates suffered from top of the ticket efforts to make South Florida a GOP stronghold and guard against Democratic gains.

Georgia: Democrats were down 16 in the House.

  • As of 11/6, Democrats have netted a two seat gain in the house.
  • Sister District won 3 of our 4 Georgia races. Two of the three red-to-blue flips in the chamber were Sister District candidates (Regina Lewis-Ward and Shea Roberts).

Minnesota:

  • As of 11/6, Democrats will pick up two seats in the Senate, offsetting two Democratic loses in the same chamber.
  • Our candidate Ann Johnson Stewart was one of the two red-to-blue flips in the chamber.

Pennsylvania: Democrats needed 4 to flip the senate and 9 to flip the house.

  • As of 11/6, many races have not been called. Control of the chambers is likely to remain with the GOP.
  • Sister District candidate Nancy Guenst is the only red-to-blue flip in the chamber called so far.

Arizona: Democrats needed 3 to flip the senate and 2 to flip the house.

  • As of 11/6, races have not been called. Control of the chambers is likely to remain with the GOP.

Close Races and Tiny Margins

Similarly to 2018 and 2019, Sister District candidates were in some of the most competitive races in their chambers. As of 10 am ET on 11/6:

  • Sara Rodriguez (WI Assembly District 13): won by 725 votes (1.91%)
  • Ricky Hurtado (NC House District 63): won by 395 votes (0.98%)
  • Shea Roberts (GA House District 52): won by 300 votes (1.05%)
  • Laurie Pohutsky (Michigan House District 19): won by 258 votes (0.44%)
  • Of races that have been called, at least half came within 5 points.

SDP Volunteers are Voter Outreach + Fundraising Powerhouses

We still have some numbers to crunch, but so far, Sister District volunteers supported our candidates and programs with:

  • We raised $1,833,155.88 from 66,667 donations (154% increase in fundraising and 186% increase in number of donations over 2019), an average of $45,128.32 per Sister Race and a median of 8.37% of a candidate’s total raise.
  • We made 708,573 phone calls to voters (up 244% over 2019). We made an average of 34.45% of each of our candidate’s total calls.
  • We sent 318,754 postcards and letters to voters (up 58% over 2019). We sent an average of 59.48% of a candidate’s total postcards. For 6 candidates, we sent 100% of their postcards.

Highlights: Impact on Individual Campaigns

Some of our field and fundraising efforts were astounding in magnitude. Here are a few examples.

  • Laurie Pohutsky (MI HD-19) — win margin: 258 votes:
    • Sister District provided: 18.03% total campaign fundraising; 34.31% total campaign volunteer phonebank calls (and successfully talked to 1,603 voters in Laurie’s district); 71.49% total campaign postcards sent.
  • Brian Farkas (NC HD-9) — win margin: 814:
    • Sister District provided: nearly $50,000 and 58.87% total campaign volunteer phonebank calls (and successfully talked to 1,385 voters in Brian’s district).
  • Deb Andraca (WI AD-23) — win margin: 1,325:
    • Sister District provided: 14.10% total campaign fundraising; 26.46% total campaign volunteer phonebank calls (and successfully talked to 1,250 voters in Deb’s district); and 100% total campaign postcards sent.
  • Shea Roberts (GA HD-52) — win margin: 348:
    • Sister District provided: 8.43% total campaign fundraising; 46.5% total campaign volunteer phonebank calls (and successfully talked to 795 voters in Shea’s district!); and 65.22% total campaign postcards sent.

Field & Fundraising Support

Here’s a quick look at where our 2020 field and fundraising efforts went:

  • % of fundraising that went to women: 79.71% (14.25% increase over 2019)
  • % of fundraising that went to candidates of color: 50.15% (14.70% increase over 2019)
  • % of fundraising that went to LGBTQ+ candidates: 9.48% (9.48% increase over 2019)
  • Among the 5 candidates we raised the most money for, 81.7% went to women.
  • Among the 5 candidates we raised the most money for, 81.7% went to candidates of color.
  • % of field touches made for female candidates: 78.60%

Sister District Class of 2020

Quick stats regarding our 2020 Sister District candidate class:

  • 77.5% women (12.79% increase from 2019)
  • 47.5% candidates of color (6.32% increase from 2019)
  • 10% LGBTQIA+ candidates (amount of candidates increased by 4x from 2019)
  • 47.5% first time state leg candidates (12.21% increase from 2019)
  • 35% candidates 40 and under (0.29% decrease from 2019)

There are some incredible firsts among our Sister District legislators-elect. These include:

  • Padma Kuppa (MI HD-41) is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu elected (ever) AND reelected to MI legislature
  • Ricky Hurtado (NC HD-63) will be the first Latino Democrat elected to NC State House, and will be the only Latinx member of NC legislature
  • Ann Johnson (TX HD-134) will be the first openly LGBTQ+ representative for her district

Political Landscape and Larger Trends

We must count every vote and not do too much analysis before all of the dust has settled. However, here are a few takeaways from what we’ve seen so far.

People Across the Political Spectrum Voted Early

Conventional wisdom from both parties going into the election (despite some research to the contrary) was that the early and absentee vote would disproportionately benefit Democrats. However, as we’ve seen, turnout was historic across the political spectrum. Over 100 million people voted early, and in several states, early vote turnout exceeded the entirety of 2016’s votes.

We are on track to hit 66% turnout nationally, which would be the highest turnout rate since 1900 (though it isn’t a great comparison because only white men could vote back then). This huge increase in early and absentee vote was driven by at least three things:

  1. New laws that have made it easier to vote in various states (including Virginia);
  2. The pandemic, which caused many states to expand early/absentee voting options and states and organizations to run promotional campaigns educating voters about options, as well as uptake of these options by voters so as to avoid in-person voting during a pandemic; and
  3. Voter enthusiasm, particularly for the top of the ticket.

Gerrymandering’s a Hell of a Drug—Remember Virginia!

In many state chambers, Democrats did not continue 2018’s trajectory of wins. This was in no small part because much of the low-hanging fruit in gerrymandered chambers had been won in 2018. For example, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House and 7 in the North Carolina House that year. This year, we were competing for harder seats, mostly on the same bad maps. While we had wins in both chambers, they were more modest. This is also what happened in Virginia over the 2017-2019 cycle. Democrats picked up 15 lower chamber seats in the 2017 election, putting the chamber in flip range. Then, a set of court decisions required a redraw of the badly gerrymandered chamber. These fairer lines resulted in several 2019 flips, tipping the chamber blue. It was a similar story in North Carolina, where court-mandated redraws in the Senate resulted in the only two flips we saw this year.  These examples demonstrate how difficult it is to succeed on unfair maps, and help explain why we were unable to achieve more flips.

Pandemic Effects

We’ll be studying this election for years. And while we don’t yet fully have a grasp on its implications, we do know that this was clearly a campaign cycle unlike any other. The pandemic changed campaigning and voting in numerous ways. Some were positive, such as the expansion of early and absentee voting options in some states. But it may have had negative effects on campaigns as well.

Among others, the pandemic prevented candidates from running robust canvassing operations and from being able to spend time in their communities. As Dave Daley and I wrote back in April, the pandemic significantly cut into down-ballot candidates’ abilities to get out into their communities and build relationships with voters. The inability to canvass, attend events and run traditional field programs may have resulted in lower name recognition when it came time for voters to fill in their ballots.

Not What We’d Hoped for Redistricting

Democrats pushed hard to flip seats and chambers in states where the legislature controls redistricting. Unfortunately, we fell short of the goalpost. Nonetheless, Democrats are going into the next redistricting cycle in a better position, at least in some states, than we had been in 2010. In part, this is because of the hard work of so many in defeating Republican trifectas and supermajorities over the past few years.

For instance, in 2011 the GOP had trifecta control of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Going into this cycle, Democrats control at least one branch of government in both of those states. Wins in 2018 broke GOP supermajorities in both chambers in North Carolina, the Pennsylvania Senate, Michigan Senate. And wins this year kept the GOP from gaining supermajorities in either of Wisconsin’s chambers. Finally, it’s important to remember that we have additional tools in our toolbox to fight for fair districts, including citizen advocacy and strategic litigation.

Democrats are in a much better position to use these tools now than in 2010 because of increased public awareness in the importance of redistricting and the growth of partner organizations that focus on it.

Weak Coattails Effect

Presidential coattails is a phenomenon that researchers have identified wherein increased turnout for the top of the ticket results in more votes for candidates of the same party at the bottom of the ticket, who “ride the presidential coattails.” This year, Joe Biden did not carry states like Florida and Texas, where Democrats had targeted legislative districts. Biden’s performance in these areas may have affected down ballot races, who were not able to ride strong coattails.

The Importance of Local Organizers

Local organizing in states like Arizona and Georgia led the way for the tremendous results in those states. In Georgia, organizations like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight worked hand-in-hand with other community-based organizations to register 800,000 new voters, and turn people out to at the polls.

At the same time, courageous down ballot candidates ran strong campaigns, working to expand the electorate. It is vital to center the voices of those most affected, and invest at the state and local level. Sister District is committed to supporting and amplifying work that is happening on the ground in each of the states we work in. One of the ways we do that is to work in coordination with our campaigns. This “hardside” work is challenging, but it ensures that we are helping to build the strength of the local candidates and campaigns, who know their communities best, and who know how to win.

We’re proud to have supported incredible candidates in Arizona and Georgia, and grateful for the tireless work of local organizations who create the conditions under which campaigns can succeed. Democrats and progressives must learn from these shining examples of the power of local organizing, and gear our work as a party and a movement toward supporting and amplifying those efforts in all that we do to help folks get elected.