Democrats are launching a new super-PAC to help win control of state legislatures and clear a path to taking the House after the 2020 redistricting process.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is launching Advantage 2020 and an accompanying super-PAC to be headed by former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), who lost a hard-fought race to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) last year.
"Our interest is in fair maps and breaking the back of Republican gerrymandering," Schauer said in an interview with The Hill in the DLCC's Washington, D.C., headquarters.
"Advantage 2020 gives us the ability to work with state leaders, Democratic committees, our progressive allies, labor leaders, Democratic groups and other progressive groups in an all-hands-on-deck comprehensive approach to developing a state-by-state strategy for Democrats to be able to draw fair maps."
The DLCC and Advantage 2020 plan to spend roughly $70 million over the next three elections trying to chip away at GOP majorities in some battleground states, where the GOP had total or near-total control over drawing the maps last time around.
Republicans' big 2010 wave election came at the worst possible moment for Democrats, as GOP state legislators gained control of a number of statehouses across the country. That meant they got to redraw maps to shore up their own districts and give their party huge advantages on House maps during the once-a-decade redistricting process that occurred in 2011.
Republican map redraws in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida likely locked in GOP control of the House for the rest of the decade. Those states alone have 65 Republican congressmen and just 29 Democrats after the last election, despite President Obama winning all of them at least once.
Schauer is intimately familiar with trying to overcome GOP gerrymanders — he served in both houses of the Michigan legislature and was minority leader in the state Senate before he won a heavily Republican House seat in the 2008 Democratic wave. He lost in 2010 and was considering a potential comeback until Republicans gerrymandered the district to remove his home county.
"I've seen gerrymandering in action, and I've witnessed the extreme policy outcomes that result in that in state legislatures, and I've watched what's happened in Congress, attacks on women's health, workers' rights, collective bargaining, environmental protections, attacks on immigrants and minority groups," Schauer said.
Republican gerrymanders also helped wipe out a number of promising up-and-coming Democrats, part of the reason why their bench is so thin in many swing states.
"As far as building a bench, the best way for the Democratic Party to do that is by running strong campaigns for the state legislature and winning them," said DLCC Executive Director Michael Sargeant. "These seats are important for their own purposes of course, but that's where so many of our future Congresspeople come from, U.S. senators, governors, so on."
Schauer and Sargeant admitted it's a tall task to win back state legislatures in states where the GOP drew the maps. But they say it's doable, pointing out that they'd won back control of state legislatures in a number of states where Republicans had drawn the maps after 2008 before the 2010 wave.
"We're confident that, by putting together a strong progressive plan that brings the whole party and progressive infrastructure together, we can run better campaigns and have success in the states by 2020," said Sargeant.