The effort, launched by Democratic donor Adam Pritzker and former New York State senator Daniel Squadron, comes amid a political landscape that has intensified the control state legislatures have over people’s lives. Republican state lawmakers in many GOP-controlled states have already begun severely limiting and outright banning access to abortion and other reproductive health care in their states. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 22 states now have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion.
Worse yet, the Supreme Court is set to consider a wackadoodle idea called the independent state legislature doctrine that would hand state legislatures unfettered control over elections without judicial recourse.
“The alarm bells are ringing in our state legislatures,” Pritzker, States Project co-founder, told the Times. “With the rise of the Tea Party and the balance of power dramatically shifting toward the right, the rest of us have been asleep at the wheel for too long at the state level. And now, this threat is truly off the charts.”
Importantly, the cash infusion is helping to bring Democratic investments at the state level in line with Republican spending.
The media-tracking firm AdImpact reports that GOP candidates have spent roughly $39 million on TV ads this cycle while Democrats have spent close to $35 million. But Republicans have outspent Democrats by about $1 million in the key states of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The States Project is sending most of its funding directly state candidates and legislative caucuses, while investing some in TV and digital. But putting the money right in the hands of the candidates frees them up to go out and actually campaign rather than spending hours on end dialing for donations.
“We started giving directly to the candidates and caucuses working in districts themselves. One thing that does is that gets them off the phones, out of the darkened rooms and into the districts to go meet their constituents,” explained Squadron, another co-founder of the group.
Despite their advances, Pritzker continues to feel a sense of urgency around investing in the state-based races.
“This is definitely not a mission-accomplished message,” Pritzker said, “We’re pretty late to the game.”
He also hopes the Democratic National Committee will start to give state races their due after vastly underfunding them for decades.
“If you need an example, the D.N.C. hasn’t given the D.L.C.C. a single dollar to this cycle,” Pritzker said, referring to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “That needs to change.”
A spokeswoman for committee countered that the DNC had been “giving money directly to state parties and coordinated campaigns,” in coordination with the DLCC.