Memo: Democrats positioned to flip state legislatures

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: DNC CEO Seema Nanda and DLCC Executive Director Jessica Post

DATE: October 8, 2018

RE: Democrats positioned to flip state legislatures


With less than 30 days left until Election Day, there is no question this is the most important election of our lifetime. From the Supreme Court to voting rights to education to health care to redistricting —our democracy is on the ballot. With more than 6,000 legislative seats up for election, Democrats have the opportunity to flip seats across the country, even in districts that Trump won in 2016.


The DNC is investing more than $500,000 into state parties across the country, in an effort to specifically flip state houses and senates, break Republican supermajorities, and win for all Democrats across the country. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) working in partnership with the DNC has already flipped over 40 state legislative seats and is spending $35 million this cycle to reclaim Democratic state legislative majorities. In addition, in a non-presidential cycle, the DNC has invested more than $20 million in state parties and campaigns across the country to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.


The first line of resistance against Republicans’ extremist policies starts in the states. This fall, voters have the opportunity to elect Democrats across the country who will break through the gridlock and inaction and deliver real change for their states.


By the numbers:

  • More than 5,300 Democrats are running for their state legislature this year.

  • More than 2,300 candidates are women and more than 1,100 are candidates of color.

  • We are 17 seats away from flipping 8 chambers:

    • 1 seat away from flipping the Colorado, Maine, Minnesota and New York state Senates.

    • 2 seats away from flipping the Wisconsin Senate.

    • 3 seats away from flipping the Arizona Senate and New Hampshire Senate.

    • 5 seats away from flipping the Florida state Senate.


Key States



The Alaska House is composed of forty districts, all of which are up for election in November 2018. Democrats currently control the chamber with a coalition formed with three Republicans and two independents, and this November, Democrats have the opportunity to flip even more seats.



Every Arizona legislative district sends one senator and two representatives to Phoenix. Democrats only need three seats to flip the state Senate and six seats to gain a majority in the House. Of the 83 Democrats on the ballot in legislative races, 46 are women, 35 are people of color and five are members of LGBTQ community. Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Arizona educators participated in walkouts, rallying for six days to protest state Republicans’ education policies and now more than 20 Democratic educators, including the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, Christine Marsh, are running for the state legislature. With the help of the DLCC, Democrats have doubled their fundraising from last election cycle. The DLCC also made early investments that made it possible for Arizona Democrats to hire organizers at the beginning of the summer who have been recruiting volunteers and talking to voters about the importance of voting in the midterms.



Democrats have outraised their GOP counterparts for much of the cycle and only need to flip one seat to retake the state Senate. Of the six targeted races, five have strong women candidates running. Two of the top targets are pickups in SD-24 and SD-16, where Democrats Faith Winter and Tammy Story have been setting records in fundraising and door knocking.



Democrats need to pick up 5 seats to take control of the state Senate and provide the next Democratic governor with the support to pass Medicaid expansion, more funding for public schools, and commonsense gun reform.


Florida Republicans have controlled the state Senate since 1995, but trends have shown them gradually losing seats since 2012. With the prospects of a national Democratic wave, Florida Democrats can break the Republican trifecta of governance this November.



Iowa Democrats have a real chance to retake control of the Iowa House for the first time since 2010. The path to victory goes through the state’s suburbs and rural counties. Democrats are running in 95 out of 100 districts – a 30-year recruitment high – while Republicans have over a dozen incumbents retiring and struggled to recruit candidates, leaving 22 districts unchallenged. With nearly two dozen flippable House seats in play, this is a state to watch this fall.



Democrats only need one seat to reclaim the Maine state Senate. With eight Republican state senators unable to seek re-election this fall due to term limits or seeking other elected office, Democrats are running candidates in all 35 Senate districts on the ballot this year and have expanded opportunities to make strong gains. This fall, Democrats will lose only one incumbent to term limits and will go into Election Day with an automatic two-seat advantage, with candidates in Windham and Portland who face no opposition.



The path to the majorities in the state house and senate runs through suburban districts, and state senators serve four-year terms, making this fall critical for making big gains in the chamber ahead of 2020 redistricting. More than one million Michigan Democrats voted in the August primary, setting a new record. With Democrats running a candidate in every House and Senate district and outraising Republican counterparts, we are on track to make significant gains in this state.



A lot is happening in Minnesota in 2018, including an opportunity to flip both legislative chambers. While Minnesota Democrats have more ground to make up in the state House, both chambers are in play with a strong slate of Democrats running to restore Democratic representation for Minnesotans under the Capitol dome.


The Minnesota state Senate is tied between Democrats and Republicans at 33-33, meaning Democrats are just one seat away from flipping control of the chamber with candidate Joe Perske running to flip SD-13.


Republicans in the state House currently hold a 77-56 majority, but Democrats have a strong shot at taking back the chamber this fall. The DNC is invested in DFL candidates to flip the state House, a result that would solidify Democrats’ input and values on policy issues from expanding accessible health care to bolstering the state’s public education system.



Democrats are three seats away from flipping the Senate and have candidates running in all 24 districts. Democrats are also outraising Republicans in 19 races. Democrats nearly doubled their midterm primary turnout record, and voters remain fired up and ready to break Republicans’ grip on the state government in November. In the House, Democrats have flipped five seats since the 2016 elections, making Democrats optimistic about continued success this fall. This cycle, Democrats have a record number of candidates running in a record number of districts – including in seats that haven’t been contested for several cycles.



Democrats feel confident they can flip the one seat needed to ensure a functioning Democratic Senate majority, which will be led by Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Primary voters ousted six former Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) members who were elected as Democrats but caucused with Republicans.



North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has been battling the Republican supermajorities well before his tenure even began. During Cooper’s transition to the governor’s office, the Republican-controlled General Assembly moved to strip away his powers even before he was sworn in. With an advantage of 35-15 in the Senate, and 74-46 in the General Assembly, North Carolina Republicans are getting away with undercutting the popularly-elected governor.


The 2018 election provides the North Carolina Democrats the opportunity to break the supermajorities in both chambers and provide Governor Cooper much needed legislative support. Democrats need 4 seats to break Republicans’ veto-proof majority in the state House and 6 seats to do the same in the Senate. We’re seeing record numbers of Democratic supporters coming out to knock doors in North Carolina for state legislative candidates.



In the Pennsylvania House, Democrats need 20 seats to gain a majority. There are 19 House seats currently held by Republicans where Clinton received at least 48% of the vote in 2016. Given what we saw happen in Virginia in 2017, we think there’s a path to making strong gains in Pennsylvania overall this year. Earlier this year, Democrats flipped HD-178 from red to blue with Rep. Helen Tai’s victory. In the Senate, Democrats are 10 seats from regaining the majority and have candidates running for all 25 seats up this year, forcing Republicans to protect seats all over the state. A strong slate of Democratic candidates, featuring former and current state representatives, local mayors, and organizers from the labor movement have this chamber poised for big pickups, putting Democrats on a path to the majority ahead of critical 2020 redistricting.



Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country and Republicans have taken full advantage of their imbalance of electoral power. Under Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin state legislature has used the GOP playbook to strip workers’ rights, deplete badly needed transportation and infrastructure projects, and threaten Wisconsinites’ access to health care.


Democrats need just two seats to flip the state Senate, and Democrats have already picked up two seats in special elections earlier this year. The DNC has invested to help Wisconsin Democrats take back the Senate and ensure Democrats are in a position to restore fairness for Wisconsin families with new leadership in Madison.



With less than 30 days and more than 6,000 legislative seats up this year, the partnership between the DNC and DLCC will help flip legislative seats from red to blue across the country. With Democrats turning out in record numbers so far this year, grassroots enthusiasm on the ground and exceptional candidates on the ballot, voters are poised to elect Democrats who will expand access to health care, pass gun safety legislation, protect a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, and fight for our democracy. With Democrats positioned to flip seats in 2018, the DNC and DLCC are working together to lay the groundwork to reclaim even more chambers in 2020 ahead of redistricting efforts.