A national Democratic group has pledged $1 million on Monday to help Virginia Democrats take back the state legislature.
The funding from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is part of a broader effort to win state races after years of dominance by Republicans. It comes just two years out from legislative redistricting that will shape the contours of Virginia’s districts for the next decade.
Democrats need to flip two seats each in the House of Delegates and Senate to control both the legislative and executive branch. That would give them the advantage heading into 2021, when the legislature will redraw its districts.
“Right now only four seats stand between Virginia Democrats and a trifecta of power in the Commonwealth,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the DLCC. “We know that we must work overtime to beat Republicans on their own gerrymandered maps.”
Republicans say many Democrats, including current Governor and former state senator Ralph Northam, voted for those maps too. And David James, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), said Democrats were getting poor bang for their buck.
"In 2015, the progressive left...outspent Republicans by nearly a margin of three to one to take back seats in Hillary Clinton-won districts they should have never lost, and still did not win a majority in the House of Delegates because their candidates and policies are bad,” he wrote in an email.
The RSLC has spent more than $14 million in Virginia since 2003, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
But both parties agree that this election is especially important because the winner will draw new maps for the next 10 years.
Prominent Democrats at the press conference, including Northam, Senate minority leader Dick Saslaw, and minority House leader David Toscano, all said that redistricting made the election a must-win for Democrats.
At the same time, they reiterated past statements urging changes to make the process less partisan. Northam said that Democrats need to win in 2019 for the concept to gain traction.
“It’s all about leverage,” he said.
Democrat strategists say the party paid a big price for ignoring state races in the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans took back a majority of state legislative chambers and flipped 724 seats in one night. That gave them control over redistricting and, Democrats say, allowed them to draw favorable maps for future elections, including ones in Virginia.
Virginia Democrats flipped 15 seats in 2017 elections, a feat Northam said offered hope to the country after President Trump’s election the year before.
Last month’s elections saw Democrats flip around 250 state legislative seats. But Republicans still control 22 state legislatures compared to 14 for Democrats, with the remainder split between the two parties.