Democrats aim to give state legislative candidates — and Biden — a boost with $10 million investment

The arm of the national Democratic Party focused on state legislative races will spend more than $10 million to boost down-ballot candidates as part of a broader effort that’s also designed to help President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

Officials with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said the investment, shared first with NBC News, marks the first time the organization has allocated this much money this early in the cycle.

The campaign, the first of several the group plans to make in the current cycle as part of a goal to spend $60 million, is the latest announced in recent weeks for state legislative races by Democratic and nonpartisan groups, whose spending will far exceed $100 million during the 2024 election.

It also further underscores the growing attention on contests for state House and Senate, where policies on issues like reproductive rights and voting rights can often have a more direct impact on people’s lives.

The DLCC’s latest investment will be allocated to competitive legislative races in eights states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

The funding will go through local Democratic parties and groups and candidates’ campaigns, with a focus on messaging, organizing, door-knocking and voter education, DLCC officials said.

In Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the DLCC aims to help Democrats keep their narrow majorities in one or both chambers of the legislatures. In Arizona and New Hampshire, the group aims to help Democrats flip control of one or both chambers of those legislatures. In Wisconsin and Kansas, states that have Democratic governors but whose legislatures are firmly controlled by Republicans, the DLCC aims to win enough competitive seats to avoid GOP supermajorities and preserve the governors’ veto power.

A broader goal of the investment, DLCC officials said, is to help give Biden a boost from the bottom of the ticket.

“We know that strong legislative campaigns and candidates are really strong messengers and are fundamentally really close to their communities,” DLCC President Heather Williams said in an interview. “They are a critical part” of a broader effort that includes “not only telling the story of their campaigns and their priorities,” Williams said, “but also the story of Democratic Party values, of how we are advancing those, and the story of the president’s agenda.”

“Those conversations are incredibly powerful and they bring people into the process in a way that certainly supports the entire ticket — up and down the ballot,” Williams said.

Asked whether the investment was specifically intended to aid Biden in some battleground states where polls show him trailing or in a close race with former President Donald Trump, Williams said “there’s a lot of overlap” in states being targeted by the DLCC between the legislative races and “the path to the presidency.”

But helping Democratic legislative candidates, Williams added, will also help fortify the party’s power in those states regardless of who wins the White House in November.

“We’ve known for a long time that much of the Republican agenda was moving through or being tested in the states,” she said. “And that’s going to keep happening, whether Trump wins the White House or he doesn’t.”

As part of the effort, the DLCC launched a new website that will highlight the specific races the group is targeting to further build awareness around down-ballot candidates.

Aside from the DLCC, the States Project, a left-leaning group that works to build Democratic majorities in state legislatures, said last week it would spend at least $70 million on state legislative races in nine states this cycle — the largest planned expenditure on such contests by any outside group in the 2024 cycle so far.

And earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union said it will spend more than $25 million on down-ballot races across the country focused on issues like abortion rights, its largest ever investment for a single election cycle.

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