The Most Important Midterm Elections Have Nothing To Do With Congress

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Politics

Over the last two years, state legislatures have served as the epicenter of the far-right’s assault on American democracy. Republicans have used their dominance of that level of politics, one that often sails beneath the radar in major election seasons, to enact new restrictions on voting, target state election systems with conspiracy theories meant ultimately to undermine them, and potentially pave the way for future efforts to overturn elections they lose in ways former President Donald Trump failed to do in 2020.Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health this summer, they have also used state legislatures to enact broad limitations on abortion rights, in many states making the practice virtually illegal even in the most extreme circumstances.AdvertisementDemocrats have been unable to pass legislation that would bolster democracy or protect abortion rights through the Senate, and likely won’t be able to even if they hang onto their slim majorities in Washington next month.That has heightened the stakes of this fall’s battle for control of state legislatures, turning often-overlooked races into perhaps the most crucial contests on the November ballot: While congressional elections, Senate races and gubernatorial contests have predictably dominated headlines in the run-up to the 2022 midterms, it’s the hundreds of lower-profile races farther down the ballot that may ultimately decide the future of abortion rights and American democracy itself.“It all comes down to freedom: Freedom to live your life without fear or oppression and the freedom to choose who represents you,” Aaron Kleinman, research director at the States Project, told HuffPost in a recent interview. “So if you care about freedom, you should really care about state legislatures right now. Because there’s a five-alarm fire going on with the issues around freedom.”The States Project, a progressive group that focuses on funding and boosting key state legislative campaigns, recently announced plans to spend $60 million in battleground states like Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states where Democrats are within range of retaking majority control of one or both chambers in each legislature. It has also homed in on states like North Carolina in an effort to prevent right-wing Republicans from winning supermajorities that would blunt the power of Democratic governors. AdvertisementKleinman, popularly known as @BobbyBigWheel on Twitter, recently spoke with HuffPost to discuss the current state legislative landscape a month from the Nov. 8 elections — including the states and candidates to watch, whether Democratic optimism in states like Michigan is justified, and why the importance of state legislative races has reached “a level we haven’t seen in decades.”The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.Naturally, the main focus is on Senate races, the battle for Congress, and governor’s contests. But why should everyone be watching state legislatures in November?There are two really big issues that state legislatures control more so than even other statewide elected officials. The first is abortion access. In almost every state, the state legislature basically can put some type of restriction on – or remove them from – access to abortion, and that’s really owing to the Dobbs decision. So that means your right to make your own medical decision, even in the most extreme circumstan …

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