Case in point—there is already a blog, written by well-known former Politico reporter Dave Catanese, chronicling all of the news and views about the upcoming presidential election.
And the site has been in existence since March of this year. In other words, the site launched roughly 1,350 days prior to the actual election date. A touch premature? Perhaps.
Perhaps not: One would suspect that there is more of a demand for 2016 presidential horse race news than there is in the multitude of races scheduled for the 2013-2014 cycles. A lot of those races, quite frankly, will fly below the radar.
But, one of (several) big political events this week underscored how critically important many of those races are.
There are, quite literally, thousands of state legislative races potentially on the docket between now and November of 2014, and if recent history proves anything, they matter a great deal, indeed.
The state legislative battles have become something of a special area of interest for me recently. Follow me below the fold for why they should become a special area of interest for you, as well.
It is pretty easy to see why state legislative races get scant attention. For one thing, there are just so damned many of them. At Daily Kos Elections, the traditional focus has been statewide elections (gubernatorial elections, particularly) and the battle for Congress. That's because, weeding out the "some dude" races and the unopposed incumbents, the field of coverage is still quite manageable. Come November of 2014, we may well be talking about 100-150 contests, at the very most.
How many state legislative seats will be up for grabs between then and now? North of 7,000 seats. We're good, but we're not that good.
But one of my homework assignments over the next several months is to establish a database of state legislative races, in order to winnow the field down to a more reasonable number and keep our community (particularly the DKE community) appraised of what is going on in those races.
After all, a case could be made that not only are the goings-on in the various state legislatures around our nation as important as what is going on in Washington, D.C., they may well be more important.
The current state of play in our nation's capital would seem to buttress that argument. The prevailing intransigence in Washington, D.C., has made actual governing almost a relic, a quaint notion that will have to wait until one party can convince the voters that they deserve the keys to both branches at once. At the risk of sounding cynical, it might be a while before that happens.
Meanwhile, at the state legislative level, governing is absolutely happening, for good and for ill. Take, for example, a cursory glance at Friday's Daily Kos front page. If you were reading the site Friday morning, you would have read about how the North Carolina state legislature gutting unemployment compensation in a state where the unemployment rate is still hovering near nine percent.
And, of course, there was the fight over SB5 in Texas, a debate over draconian anti-abortion measures that thrust state Sen. Wendy Davis into not just the spotlight in her home state, but the national spotlight.
Any local activist can tell you that there are unthinkable measures of this ilk (and not just on reproductive freedom) all over the map.
As most readers of Daily Kos already know, there is an effort underfoot to draft Wendy Davis to run against Gov. Rick Perry in Texas. I strongly support this move, not just because Davis would give Perry fits, but because Perry's post-filibuster shenanigans make clear that there needs to be someone other than him in the governor's mansion.
Rest assured, however, that there are scores of other state legislators and state legislative candidates with that kind of drive willing to stand and be heard around the country. Find one to support. Conversely, there are creatures running around the state legislatures of America that make the Michele Bachmanns and Steve Kings of the world look almost measured and temperate. Find one to oppose.
The beauty of getting involved at this more localized level is that the return on investment in these cases is so comparably high. Remember Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert? If the name doesn't ring a bell, you may well remember what he said:
I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don't represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is not going to save us. We're going to take this country back to the Lord. We're going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we're not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!Rapert was first elected to the Arkansas state Senate in 2010. The cost of victory for Rapert was ... $97,000.
Now, in fairness, not all state lege races come that cheap (Indeed, Rapert had to spend four times that amount in his re-election, a high profile race in 2012). An excellent case in point is the aforementioned Wendy Davis, who represents a state Senate district larger than the congressional districts in Texas (a fact that is true only in Texas and California). In both her initial election in 2008 and her re-election in 2012, Davis had to spend seven figures in order to hold her purplish-red district in the D/FW metro area (indeed, her fundraising prowess is another reason she'd make an excellent gubernatorial prospect).
That said, a huge number of races that are competitive at the legislative level (particularly in the smaller state House districts) will be won with warchests that range from the high-five figures to the low-six figures. That stands in stark contrast to competitive U.S. House seats (where you can increase that by a factor of 10) or statewide U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races (where you can increase that, often, by a factor of 100).
There are good candidates, setting up to run in races in the next 18 months, who need to be in elected office. Conversely, there are a multitiude of purely awful officeholders who need to be unemployed.
I said at the beginning of this piece that a lot of these races fly under the radar. And that is true. But some of the worst attacks on democracy are not easily detected on radar. Sure, it would be an incredible result to gain back control of the House and see the return of Speaker Pelosi. That said, don't take your eye of the ball: There is a lot of governing happening in your backyard, as well as in the backyard of many of your fellow Americans. We would be wise to pay attention.