Democrats are sweeping statehouse seats, and it’s making the GOP nervous

  • Democrats have flipped 39 state legislative seats since President Donald Trump took office, many of them in deeply red districts Trump swept by large margins in 2016.
  • Republicans, by comparison, have flipped just four seats from blue to red.

Democrats have flipped 39 statehouse seats since President Donald Trump took office, many of them in deeply red districts Trump swept by large margins in 2016.

Last year, Democrats flipped 33 state legislative seats, including 15 in the Virginia statehouse, and took the New Jersey governor’s mansion and a US Senate seat in ruby red Alabama. So far in 2018, the party has made unexpected gains in conservative states, including Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky.

Last week, Democrat Philip Spagnuolo beat Republican Les Cartier by eight points in a district Trump won by 13. And in Connecticut, Democrat Phil Young flipped a seat that had been under GOP control for the last 44 years.

Republicans, by comparison, have flipped just four seats from blue to red.

Democrats and Republicans alike are chalking up the Democratic wins to widespread anti-Trump sentiment that Democrats hope will power them to a blue wave in the midterm elections this year.

And prominent Republicans are voicing increasing concern about the phenomenon.

“The Democrats are highly motivated,” Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, warned at a rally for the Republican candidate for a Florida statehouse seat Democrats flipped this week. “They’re winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be. We’ve seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We’ve seen them win big mayor’s races in New Hampshire. … Make no mistake – the Democrats are unified.”

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the Democratic win in his state “a wake-up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.”

And even in special election races that Democrats have lost, they’ve been much more competitive in the deeply red districts than they were in 2016.

The Democratic focus on statehouse seats is in part a reaction to their loss of nearly 1,000 state legislative seats during former President Barack Obama’s tenure. (At the start of Obama’s time in office, Democrats controlled 59% of state legislatures, and by the end they controlled just 31% – the lowest portion in a century.)

In an effort to revive the party after the splintering of the 2016 primary and the blow of the general election, party leaders are putting renewed focus on local and state-wide elections.

“Our motto of the new DNC is every zip code counts,” Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said in November. “We can win everywhere.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the national group dedicated to supporting state legislative campaigns, is doubling its spending on strategic investments to $35 million this cycle.