Democrats have been breaking fundraising records all year. With elections just three weeks away you probably want to donate, but it’s hard to tell whether a candidate really needs your money. That’s why we want you to Give Smart.
Now, don’t get us wrong, the hundreds of thousands of small donors to candidates like Beto O’Rourke, Lauren Underwood, Sharice Davids and Amy McGrath are making a difference. But with only a month to go until the election they seem pretty set on the money front. The difference between $30,000,000 of TV ads and $30,000,020 of TV ads seems pretty miniscule.
So where can your money make a big difference? State legislative races. The Obama era saw massive policy regression at the state level, and if Democrats can start winning control back they can make a real difference in protecting women’s health, staving off climate change and stopping Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression.
And if we can get donors to unite behind just one candidate in eight of the most flippable state legislative bodies (The Senate in Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida New York and Arizona, the House in Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa) it’d have a massive knock-on effect. In some of those races the candidates only have around $20,000 to spend, so your dollars go a lot further than at the federal level. And not only would your donations help those individual candidates but it’d force Republicans to allocate resources to their opponents at the expense of other candidates across the state.
If Democrats take over these legislative chambers it can make a real difference in the lives of their citizens. Just look at what happened in Washington when Democrats flipped the State Senate there.
So here at Data For Progress we’re making a simple request - $80 to spend across these eight candidates. We’ve set up an ActBlue page for you to make those donations, and you can find more about each of the candidates below. We’re calling it our Give Smart initiative. No portion of the contributions to Give Smart goes to Data for Progress. All the money supports candidates.
Also, you can support Data for Progress here. These contributions will not support the Give Smart candidates, but rather general operating support for the think tank.
Colorado Senate: Tammy Story
Control of the Colorado Senate, which Republicans have a single seat majority in, will come down to five seats that voted for Clinton but only by a plurality - the 5th, 16th, 20th, 22nd and 24th. The five Democratic women running in those seats have outraised their opponents but outside groups are spending heavily for the Republicans, including incumbent Tim Neville. Neville has supported various white nationalist causes, is a virulent opponent of women’s health, and wants anyone in the state to be able to carry a concealed weapon. Naturally, that means the Koch Brothers are spending heavily to keep him in the State Senate. His opponent, Tammy Story, is running on a platform that people in this suburban seat can get behind: protecting public schools, shifting to renewable energy sources and making sure women will still be able to get healthcare after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Even with all Neville’s dirty money, Story’s running neck and neck with him in the dollar chase and every bit helps.
Wisconsin Senate: Julie Henszey
After 8 years of suffering under the union-busting and vote-suppressing Scott Walker, Wisconsin appears to be turning a corner. Democrat Tony Evers has consistently led Walker in polling. But if he wins Evers can’t undo the damage Walker has wrought on the state alone, he’ll need help from the legislature. A ruthless and likely unconstitutional gerrymander has kept Republicans in control of it for most of the decade, but Democrats only need to flip two seats in the State Senate to take control of that chamber. And Julie Henszey, a wilderness guide and local activist, is running to flip a suburban Milwaukee seat that only narrowly supported Trump 48-47. She’ll bring Wisconsin forward by supporting universal health care, stopping corporate welfare giveaways like Foxconn and decriminalizing marijuana. Her opponent Dale Kooyenga is your standard Republican jackboot who has a 5-1 cash advantage right now, but this is a race where small donors can really make up the difference.
Florida Senate: Janet Cruz
State House Minority Leader Janet Cruz has been a progressive stalwart on a number of issues: she’s been a prominent backer of gun safety, women’s health, and voting rights. Now that she’s seeking promotion to a Senate seat that voted 51-45 for Clinton against an NRA-owned, pro-life Republican incumbent you’d figure dollars from progressive groups would be pouring in. But they aren’t, as Cruz has been outraised by incumbent Dana Young. Polling and election results from 2017 onward have shown that the most endangered Republicans nationwide are ones sitting in seats that Clinton won, but Cruz can’t unseat Young and support Andrew Gillum’s agenda without closing the fundraising gap.
Arizona Senate: Wade Carlisle
Arizona is at the epicenter of the teachers labor movement, and with Republicans likely to retain the governorship Democrats will need to take over the State Senate to prevent further cuts to education budgets. And there’s no greater enemy of public education in the State Senate than Sylvia Allen. She personally founded a charter school that got an F grade from the State Board of Education. She’s also a creationist who wants to make church attendance mandatory, and when her prison guard son was investigated for bribing inmates for sex she tried to pass a law to make that legal. Oh, and did we mention that she’s chair of the State Senate Education Committee? You can stop the madness by donating to her opponent Wade Carlisle, a teacher, small businessman and cattle rancher.
New York Senate: James Gaughran
We’ve covered extensively the good that could be done in New York if Democrats can manage to flip the State Senate. Protecting women from Brett Kavanaugh and immigrants from ICE. Ending voter suppression. Making the state a leader in health care and renewable energy. All are possible now that Democrats have rooted the turncoat IDC from their ranks. But even with the IDC crushed they still need to flip one seat (while holding all their own). And it increasingly seems like James Gaughran is at the tipping point of Senate control. In 2016 he seemingly came out of nowhere to come within 1% of beating longtime incumbent Carl Marcellino, who hadn’t faced a competitive race in decades and has a nasty habit of calling immigrants “rapefugees.” So it would seem that in 2018 Gaughran would be able to cruise to victory in a better year for Democrats. But Marcellino’s taking his challenge far more seriously time, and using New York landlord money to try and drag Gaughran into the gutter. This is an expensive race, but your dollars could really make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers.
Michigan House: Alberta Griffin
Democrats are running one of the most progressive statewide slates anywhere in Michigan, where Gretchen Whitmer, Garlin Gilchrist, Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel will represent a welcome break from the last eight years of Republican mismanagement that have left countless dead or permanently disabled in Flint and elsewhere. But they’ll need help from the state legislature, where in spite of a brutal gerrymander Democrats are within striking distance in the State House. And there’s a Republican held seat in the Kalamazoo suburbs that could be the tipping point for Democratic control. It was won by Hillary Clinton but it’s still represented by Republican Brandt Iden, Lansing lobbyists’ favorite representative. A recent poll had Griffin up 9 but with all the corporate cash behind Iden she’ll need all the help she can get.
Iowa House: Nancy Fett
Donald Trump was the first Republican to win Dubuque County since Eisenhower and if Democrats want to win back the state there’s nowhere better to start than there. The 57th District contains most of the county outside the city of Dubuque and is represented by hard right freshman Shannon Lundgren, who was forced to walk back her demand that women carry dead fetuses to term. Democrat Nancy Fett, on the other hand, is running on a platform inspired by Paul Wellstone’s people-forward message. It’s the type of message that Democrats should emphasize in 2020, and a win by Fett would be proof of that.
Minnesota House: Kristin Bahner
Bahner, who helped organize the Women’s March in Minnesota, could very well be at the tipping point for taking back control of the Minnesota House. She’s running in a suburban seat that supported both Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton to invest in renewable energy and provide universal background checks and pre-K. The Minnesota House will be critical not just in making sure Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan’s agenda is implemented, but also in making sure fair maps are implemented in 2022 as Minnesota will likely be losing a congressional seat, so give to Bahner today.