NEW: Memo reveals Democratic plan to flip more statehouses

aAfter them After scoring a big win in Virginia last week, Democrats signal they will use the strategy there as a model for down-ballot races in 2024.

In a memo to major donors first shared with TIME, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on state legislative races, credits its early focus on abortion rights in Virginia as a crucial factor in helping the party retain control of the state Senate and turn the tide. State House, thwarting a high-profile effort by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to ban abortion in most cases after 15 weeks in the state. The memo notes that the commission plans to draw up statewide races next year as part of a national fight to preserve Americans’ freedoms.

“Throughout the year, DLCC has sounded the alarm on the national stage about the risks

“The election and what the Republican trio will mean for Virginia,” Heather Williams, interim president of the DLCC, wrote in the memo. “Republican control of the General Assembly and an unchecked GOP triumvirate would have resulted in a ban on abortion and cut off the last point of access for the entire South.”

The memo highlights the millions of dollars spent by Youngkin’s political action committee, and how Democrats have successfully countered that with their own fundraising. By mid-October, the DLCC had invested $2.2 million in Virginia, the largest amount the DLCC had ever invested directly in the state, William writes.

Ahead of Election Day 2023, Youngkin encouraged his party’s candidates to support a limit on abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother — a proposal that was widely seen as a model that Republicans could talk about nationally. Abortion if it works with Virginia voters. While Youngkin insisted that his attention was squarely focused on Virginia in the run-up to the election, many viewed him as a potential presidential contender, especially with others. Replacements for former President Donald Trump appear to be faltering. After last week’s losses in Virginia, interest in Youngkin as a 2024 candidate has declined sharply.

“While national pundits focused on Governor Youngkin and his presidential ambitions, we made one thing abundantly clear: This election was about state power and the future, not just of Virginia, but of the direction of the entire country,” Williams writes.

Since the presidential race, and the unpopularity of each party’s front-runner, sucks a lot of air into politics, the memo underscores the importance of state legislative seats. Victories at this level could provide a key bulwark for Democrats against right-wing legislation, especially if President Joe Biden fails to win re-election in what is expected to be a close race.

“No matter what happens at the top of the ticket, 2024 will be the year of the states,” Williams writes.

In addition to abortion rights, the DLCC memo states that the committee brought attention to Virginia by urging the country to pay attention to how Tuesday’s results affect voting rights, LGBT people, and climate change. These issues are likely to continue to play a role in next year’s elections, when the DLCC aims to flip both chambers of the Arizona and New Hampshire legislatures, as well as the Pennsylvania state Senate. Earlier this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is leading efforts to elect Republicans to state legislatures, outlined its top targets for the chambers to flip in 2024 in Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

DLCC also plans to invest in Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin next year. The status of abortion rights in many of those states is currently murky pending action from the courts.

“Democrats recognize that beyond important federal races, we must also compete and win power in the states,” Williams writes. “Republicans have gained an advantage in the past decade, but now Democrats are fighting back and shifting the balance of power.”

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