STEP ONE: Assess States & Identify Chambers
First, we assess the state legislative chambers across the country and develop a list of chambers meeting one of our three race portfolio categories. Based on the work we have done so far, we have developed the following preliminary target list of states and chambers:
- Blue Flips: Arizona Senate, Colorado Senate, New Hampshire Senate, Maine Senate, New York Senate (for a ‘true blue’ flip).
- Blue Holds: Delaware Senate, Nevada Senate, Washington Senate.
- Blue Inroads: Pennsylvania House, Pennsylvania Senate, Florida House, Florida Senate, Michigan House, Michigan Senate, North Carolina House, North Carolina Senate.
Note about special elections: the above list is based upon the 2018 general election calendar. Special elections may also be called in these states or other states that meet our criteria, and we will evaluate those opportunities as they arise.
STEP TWO: Identify Potential Seats In Chambers
Second, we assess the particular composition of each identified chamber, generating a list of specific districts within each chamber that meet certain general criteria around flippability or incumbent fragility, principally relying on publicly available historical voting records for each district.
STEP THREE: Deeper Dive Into Specific Districts
Third, we take a deeper dive into each of those districts. This involves assessing factors like the Partisan Voting Index and Democratic Performance Index scores for the district. We also look at whether the district is nested within other competitive elections where we might be able to force-multiply activity in-district (especially swing congressional races), whether the seat is open in 2018 due to the incumbent being term-limited or declining to run for re-election, and how much money candidates have raised for the seat over prior cycles. For seats held by Republican incumbents running again, we also assess factors including the strength of the incumbent and his or her prior voting record as a legislator.
With the help of dozens of dedicated volunteer researchers, we have largely completed Steps 1 through 3 for our 2018 race targeting process.
STEP FOUR: Local Stakeholder Input and Refinement of Potential Targets
Fourth, we discuss our preliminary list of chambers and districts with key stakeholders on the ground in each location. These stakeholders include our local Sister District teams in potential target states, other local grassroots electoral and issue-based advocacy groups, Democratic chamber caucus staff, prior and current legislators and candidates in those districts, academic researchers and other state and issue experts, and national political and advocacy-based organizations. We refine our preliminary target list based on these conversations and insights.
STEP FIVE: Candidate Assessment
Fifth, we assess candidate quality in the seats we have identified. We evaluate candidates based on a number of factors, including their leadership ability, policy platform, fit for the district, local and broader coalition of support, campaign staff quality, and interest in our support. This process involves interviews with the candidate and staff, as well as consultation with local- and state-based organizations.
The timing of this step depends on candidate filing deadlines. Here is a list of the state and federal filing deadlines in 2018. As you can see, the filing deadlines will happen at different times in different states. Some states have early deadlines (for instance, Texas); other states have much later deadlines (for instance, Louisiana). Some folks have already declared their candidacy, but in other districts, candidate recruitment is still ongoing. Where we can, we have and will continue to talk with candidates to begin to get to know them. But generally we will have to wait until the candidate filing deadline has passed in the state, so that we have an accurate understanding of all the folks who have declared that they’ll run for the seat.
Once the filing deadline has passed, we will be able to more deeply evaluate particular candidates in particular seats we have identified for our potential support. In some instances, only one Democrat may have announced their candidacy, and will not be facing a contested primary. In those cases, we may be able to finalize our candidate assessment and move forward with our official support ahead of the primary. In other cases, more than one Democrat may be running for the seat, and we will generally need to wait until after the primary to move forward with our official support.
A note on policy platform: our goal is to win elections, and we understand that in order to do so in a truly democratic manner, a candidate should reflect the values of the voters in her district. As a result, we do not currently have a strict litmus test for the candidates we support. However, we only support candidates that have demonstrated a principled commitment to pursuing a legislative agenda aligned with the Democratic ideals of equality and fairness for all.
STEP SIX: Matching Teams to Races
Our biggest strength as an organization is our people. Our teams of creative, tenacious volunteers across the country worked tirelessly for their candidates. The sixth step in this process is matching races with teams. We are committed to finding “good homes” for both our teams and our candidates so that they can develop meaningful relationships. These relationships help us “expand what we think of as our own backyard” to create deep, sustained engagement that results in more wins.
Over the past couple of months, we have engaged in a deep-dive end-of-year debrief process with each of our teams to identify what worked well, areas for improvement, and each team’s priorities and goals. Teams in the states where we have Sister Races next year will be paired with the races in their states, and we will continue to partner with other local grassroots groups to amplify each other’s efforts on the ground. And when we match non-local teams to their Sister Races next year, it will be with the team-specific learnings and priorities we have identified together in mind.
STEP SEVEN: Announcing Our Support
Once we have assessed the candidate(s), the filing deadlines and/or contested primaries have passed, and we have found a good match for a Sister Race among our Sister District team(s), we can announce our official support in particular districts.
This will occur at different times throughout the year, given the variation in filing deadlines and candidate recruitment landscape in the states we have identified for potential inclusion in our portfolio. We will announce our support for candidates on a rolling basis, as available. Please note that the list of potential states and chambers we have identified above is preliminary and still being refined. We may not end up supporting candidates in each of those chambers, due to any number of factors.