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Dem organizing groups to donors: 2024 is already here

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul is seen in June.

A trio of prominent Democratic groups primarily focused on organizing in down-ballot races has an urgent message for donors: 2024 has already arrived.

Leaders from Arena, Run for Something and Sister District — all of which were founded in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016 — told donors on a call earlier this week that the party must start investing money now in preparation for a slate of non-presidential elections also coming up in 2024, from state legislative races to campaigns for positions administering local elections.

It is the latest sign of a growing permanent campaign infrastructure for Democrats, who after getting wiped out in state legislatures in recent years have poured attention and resources into down-ballot efforts.

“We can’t rest on our laurels here,” Lauren Baer, the managing partner of Arena, said on the call, to which a POLITICO reporter was granted access. “We had better than expected results this year, but 2024 starts today.”

A constellation of liberal organizations flooded legislative races with money in 2022, and Democrats did not lose a single chamber anywhere in the country. It’s the first time the party that controls Washington has achieved that in a midterm since 1934, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party’s flagship committee focused on these races.

Meanwhile, Democrats also flipped both chambers in Michigan and the Minnesota state Senate, with some others still too close to call.

The leaders of the three groups impressed on their listeners that while the results were surprisingly strong for Democrats, they shouldn’t anticipate any sort of long-term dominance.

“As we look ahead to 2023 and ‘24, Republicans are already regrouping and we anticipate that they’re going to come back and learn lessons,” said Lala Wu, the co-founder and executive director of Sister District. They could “run the playbook that was so successful in Virginia last year, where they retook the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates by running a diverse slate of candidates supported by strategic early investments.”

Wu also pointed to Florida as a place of strength for Republicans, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis routed his Democratic opponent and Republicans took supermajorities in the state legislature. “They could come back and rerun the playbook in Florida, where DeSantis — as much as I really dislike him and as awful as he is — stayed away from some of the wildest claims of election denial and helped to turn Florida an even deeper red,” Wu said.

The groups’ leaders said Democratic organizations and candidates had to have funding now in order to set up a successful 2024, instead of waiting until the election cycle is in full swing to get the ball rolling.

Operatives working on down-ballot races have long bemoaned the lack of well-funded permanent infrastructure that would allow Democrats to make longer-term planning decisions “Early isn’t Q2 of the election year,” Baer said.

The party also needs to be “expanding the time horizon for the return on investment,” Baer continued. “Most people give in an election cycle because they expect to see a victory that next November … and we need to change the mindset to say, ‘We’re making longer term investments where we might see incremental gains this year, but we’re laying the groundwork.’”


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