Overview

At Sister District, we build and maintain Democratic majorities in state legislatures across the country.  Since our founding in late 2016, we have had tremendous success by executing a comprehensive strategy that involves both electoral and non-electoral tactics.

Sister District Project’s political strategy is described below. It is complemented by non-electoral efforts performed at our affiliated (c)(4), Sister District Action Network (SDAN). These include voter registration projects, civic education about the importance of state legislatures and state issues, and field experiments testing new methods of voter and volunteer contact.  Each year, SDP and SDAN work together to create a mix of electoral and non-electoral activities for our volunteer community.

Once-In-A-Decade Opportunity

Every ten years, the results of the National Census trigger redistricting in the states. This means that after the 2020 Census, every state will redraw its electoral district maps—an opportunity that will not arise again until 2031. State legislatures control the redistricting process in 37 states, so who we send to our state legislatures between now and 2020 will have consequences for years to come.

Race Targeting Strategy

Elections in 2019 and 2020 are the last chance for Democrats to gain power in state legislatures prior to redistricting in 2021, which will determine the maps for the next decade.

In these two years, we will focus on “Last Chance” races: the last elections before redistricting in 2021, in states where the legislature controls redistricting - meaning whoever is elected in the race will draw their state’s next maps.

We will prioritize Last Chance races that also meet one of our overall strategic goals:

  • Blue flips: chambers where Democrats are down 1-3 seats that we can flip blue in one cycle
  • Blue holds: chambers where Democrats hold a fragile 1-2 seat majority that must be defended
  • Blue Inroads: badly gerrymandered states whose congressional maps would fail a 7% "efficiency gap" threshold, and states having what NYU’s Brennan Center categorizes as "Extreme Maps"

2019: Focus on Last Chances

Flipping VA Blue, Inroads in the South, and Special Elections

In 2019, our political strategy will be significantly weighted toward “Last Chance” races: the last elections before redistricting in 2021 - meaning whoever is elected in 2019 will draw their state’s next maps.

The states holding general state legislative elections in 2019 are: Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and New Jersey. We plan to support races in the following states and chambers:

State Chamber(s) Type of Chamber(s) “Last Chance” Before Redistricting
Virginia Senate and House Blue Flips Yes
Louisiana Senate and House Blue Inroads Yes
Mississippi Senate and House Blue Inroads Yes
Special Elections Senate and House All categories Prioritize when possible


We will continue to compliment our political strategy with significant non-electoral work through SDAN, to increase voter registration, public education, and research partnerships with academics and nonprofit think tanks to test novel methods of voter and volunteer contact.  We are already developing partnerships with local and national organizations for these efforts in our 2019 target states.

2020: Ultimate Priority

Last Chances Before Redistricting

In 2020, our political strategy will again include chambers from each of our three categories, with ultimate priority given to “Last Chance” races: the last elections before redistricting in 2021, in states where the legislature controls redistricting - meaning whoever is elected in 2020 will draw their state’s next maps.

Further, we will particularly prioritize states whose maps are badly gerrymandered: those states whose Congressional maps would fail a 7% Efficiency Gap threshold, and those that NYU’s Brennan Center categorizes as “Extreme Maps.”

While we do not yet know the exact composition of those chambers, pending the results of the 2018 elections, we do know which states, chambers and seats will be holding elections in 2020. We can, therefore, articulate a strategy for 2020 now. After 2018 election results, we will be able to categorize these chambers as Blue Flips, Blue Holds, and Blue Inroads.

These are our targets holding “Last Chance” elections in 2020:

2019 (only 4 states having general elections) 2020 (chamber composition TBD)
Virginia
  • Senate (19 D, 21 R)
  • House (49 D, 50 R)
Louisiana
  • Senate (14 D, 25 R)
  • House (39 D, 60 R)
Mississippi
  • Senate (19 D, 33 R)
  • House (47 D, 73 R)
Special elections
Florida
Georgia
Michigan (House only)
Minnesota
North Carolina
Ohio
Pennsylvania (Senate only)
Texas
Special elections

The exact number of seats and chambers in which we ultimately support candidates in 2020 will depend on a number of factors, including candidate availability, and internal resources.

We will again compliment our electoral work with non-electoral civic engagement tactics through our affiliated (c)(4), SDAN.

As a presidential election year, 2020 will be busy.  Sister District will continue to provide a critical function in the ecosystem: by focusing on state legislative races, particularly in Last Chance redistricting chambers and seats, we will ensure these critical venues of power are not forgotten in the hub-bub of presidential and congressional races.  

By articulating our 2019-2020 strategy now, in September 2018, we are in a unique position to leverage our deep expertise in state legislative strategy to get a significant jump-start on planning and execution.