The New York Times today confirmed what grassroots organizers have long known–running candidates in every seat up and down the ballot, whether they win or lose, can have consequences in other races. Beto O’Rourke narrowly (2.7%) lost his Senate race to amateur border patrol member Ted Cruz, but his coattails swept in 2 Members of Congress, 2 State Senators, 12 State House members, and at the county level helped to elect officials and a bunch of predominantly Black women judges. Also, he was handing out food when Ted was in Cancun, and is now a viable candidate for Governor.
The piece tells the story of Ebony Carter, who ran in a rural State Senate seat, against a guy who had previously run unopposed, and almost in spite of her party leaders, who sound a lot like Florida Senator Gary Farmer:
A study, undertaken by Run for Something in eight states, including Florida, concluded that even in the reddest of districts, The President, who won Georgia by 11,780 votes, got a boost of up to 1.5% when there was at least one Democrat filed down-ballot. The DNC is not sure how to operationalize this insight. We have some thoughts:
Understanding that resources are not unlimited, maybe look at candidates who outperformed their funding and/or the Cook Rating of their District. For example
Dr. Cindy Banyai, a first-time candidate who thumped an establishment Dem in the primary, and went on to move 50,000 votes (versus the prior challenger) on a budget of about $200K. To hold this open seat, Republicans deployed $5M to elect Byron Donalds, who has spent his time in Washington hanging about on the White House Lawn.
He later that day voted against certifying the results of a free and fair election and has voted against very popular legislation, like the American Recovery Act. Cindy has filed to take him on again and is holding him accountable for every bad decision he makes on her large social media platforms. Imagine if she had some real funding, the kind that buys TV ads? She has already nudged the Cook Rating for her district by a point.
Then there’s Karen Butler
Karen was convinced to file to run against Doug Broxon for Florida State Senate 1 just 14 weeks before the election. This is the seat formerly held by Don Gaetz. This Air Force Veteran turned realtor has a knack for promoting her brand, and deep roots in the community. With fundraising of a little over $20K she also moved 50,000 votes, getting 98,480 in a seat where the Republican frequently runs unopposed. Broxon called her the next day to congratulate her. He knew exactly how lopsided his victory (with 135K votes) was. She was a big reason the Cook Rating in her district moved two points, and she should be on the radar screen of every county, state and national organization that cares about electing women and Democrats.
And finally, Donna Deegan, whose Congressional District, Florida 4 had the biggest swing (3 points) in the Cook Index:
Donna helped to make certain that there was a Democrat filed in every seat down-ballot from her, raised a little over $1Million, and moved 90,000 votes in her deeply gerrymandered district. This should also be an attention-grabber.
Another thought? If the national groups and party organizations would stop focusing on just the few seats their crystal balls tell them are winnable, and spread the support around more broadly, it would lift a lot of boats, and encourage folks who have run a good race and accomplished things short of a win to try it again. Ignoring these candidates in red districts is not a long-term strategy for success.