Reporting from Washington — Democrats, concerned about losses in statehouse contests this November, plan to release a first list of "essential races" Monday, part of a new program designed to call attention to the "key contests for Democratic state legislative control this fall."
That's the phrase used by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee's executive director, Michael Sargeant, who has the tough job this year of overseeing Democratic efforts at the state level.
The 2010 elections are crucial to determine who will be in charge in the decennial process of redistricting, the redrawing of congressional boundaries that follows each census. Republicans have estimated recently that they will pick up an additional six legislative chambers around the country, and possibly more.
Democrats control 26 state legislatures while the GOP holds 14. Statehouses in nine states are split, with one chamber controlled by each party. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature.
The inaugural list of the Democrats' "Essential Races" includes contests in Texas, a state likely to gain three or four congressional seats as a result of population shifts, more than any other state. Money and attention will flow to Texas not only because of the significant change in congressional seats. The Texas Legislature will draw the new lines and a swing of just two seats in the state House could cost Republicans political control.
After Texas, Ohio draws the most atttention because it would lose two seats, as many as any other state. Top battleground-state House legislative races in Ohio will draw more than $1 million in campaign funding, much of it from Washington-based groups.
For example, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has already sponsored a mailing for incumbent state Rep. Nancy Garland of Columbus.
Recently the national group sent mailers to her district calling out her challenger, Republican Matt Carle, for doing "special interests' dirty work" as a lobbyist that brings "brings the pigs to the trough."
The mailing led the state's minority leader, Rep. Bill Batchelder, to complain publicly that Democrats should focus on the issues rather than running around "like fascists" distributing inflammatory leaflets.