Power-building strategy: Continue to grow with college-educated voters.
Kansas, once a Republican bastion, has seen Democratic gains over the last half-decade due to an extremely unpopular Republican agenda and the growing college-educated suburban population. It shifted five points leftward from 2016 to 2020 and elected a Democratic governor in 2018.
In our 2040 Project, we do not predict that Kansas will become a Senate battleground in the next 20 years, but there are steps that we can take to accelerate Democratic growth in the state.
In 2020, EveryDistrict invested in state legislative races in Kansas with the goal of breaking the GOP supermajority in both chambers and giving Democratic Governor Laura Kelly more leverage in the policy-making process. Unfortunately, Democrats fell short of that goal, instead seeing no net gain in the Senate and a net loss in the House.
In EveryDistrict’s 2019 Purple States Report, we created comprehensive demographic profiles for every competitive state legislative district. We identified 16 potential state legislative flip districts in Kansas, 11 of which were majority college-educated. Three of four flips in 2020 were majority college-educated and had all voted for Clinton in 2016: SD 8 (66%), HD 17 (66%), and HD 20 (73%). State Senator Jeff Pittman (who formerly served in the House) stands out as notably flipping a seat that voted for Trump twice with only 42% of the district being college-educated.
As in Indiana, which we highlighted earlier in the week, figuring out these “next on the list” suburban, college-educated districts is key for Democrats to build large majorities in the US House and important state legislative chambers. And just as we outlined yesterday for Iowa and non-college voters, Kansas stands to benefit immensely from a similar program targeted at understanding and persuading even more college-educated voters to consistently pull the lever for Democrats.
Embedding organizers in these key state legislative districts will be critical for understanding the unique needs of voters in these communities. In Governor Kelly’s 2018 win, she won a commanding majority of legislative districts compared to the right-wing Kris Kobach. Turning Kansas purple will require a targeted campaign and more comprehensive funding for an outreach program to ensure that voters understand that the GOP running the legislature is more like Kobach than they think.
We firmly believe that this type of “bottom up” strategy will pay dividends for candidates up and down the ballot and can help to expedite turning Kansas into a true battleground state. If we can build a winning Democratic coalition in the “purple” state legislative districts, then we’ve turned a state blue.
This strategy was most successfully implemented in Virginia in 2017, where energetic House of Delegate campaigns helped to clinch the gubernatorial election in a race most pundits and pollsters expected to be close. This year in Virginia, EveryDistrict is putting this strategy into action again, investing in on-the-ground organizing to help candidates hone their message and implement data-driven outreach strategies to ensure Virginia remains blue.
How you can advance a 50-state strategy in Kansas:
- Democrats need to invest in continued messaging, polling, and organizing targeted at college-educated voters who will be key to winning in more places like Kansas. Beginning in Virginia in 2021 and expanding to other battleground states in 2022, EveryDistrict’s Win Number program will do exactly that by deploying the latest in election science to identify how we can win more conservative college-educated voters, rebuild with non-college white voters, and develop a message that resonates with rural voters.