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Dems Begin New Progressive Push At State Level

Liberal activists are fundraising for a new organization dedicated to recouping Democratic losses and pushing a progressive agenda at the state level, following big Republican gains last week.

With the help of favorable redistricting and well-organized and well-funded conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which models and pushes pro-business, free-market policies in statehouses, Republicans have dominated policy at the state level in recent years.

They now control a record two-thirds of all statehouses, the entire legislature in 31 states and the entire state government in 23 states. Democrats, by contrast, control just 11 legislatures and the entire state government in 6 states. (RELATED: GOP Makes Record Gains At State Level)

“[Republicans] made a sound strategic decision to prioritize activity at the state level and they beat us to the punch,” Paul Booth, an official at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees told Politico. “They were smarter than we were.”

Booth is working with President Obama’s former liaison to the states, Nick Rathod, to create the State Innovation Exchange, which will craft and push progressive policies in state houses in the style of ALEC, including raising the minimum wage, increasing environmental protection and union power, and fighting voter ID laws.

Rathod is pitching SiX this week at an annual winter meeting of top Democratic donors put together by the Democracy Alliance, reported Politico. A copy of the club’s playbook for the spring meeting leaked this year revealed a network of secret-money groups with a sophisticated plan involving voter databases to spend money on behalf of Democratic candidates nationwide.

Getting the club on board would be a boost for SiX, but will likely take some convincing, since the importance of obscure state battles isn’t obvious. ALEC is taking the whole thing as a compliment. “The creation of progressive duplicates of the American Legislative Exchange Council is an indicator that states matter and that the ALEC model of engagement is sound,” Lisa B. Nelson, ALEC CEO, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

If a given policy works out well, other states and national politicians are much more likely to replicate it. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was reelected by a narrow margin after passing controversial tax cuts in Kansas, and Gov. Scott Walker was reelected after taking on powerful unions in Wisconsin. Those wins are a signal to politicians those policies can be successfully implemented and are politically feasible.

“Progressives are looking around to figure out where to go to push back, and there has not been a vehicle to do that at the state level,” Rathod told Politico. It’s the biggest missing piece in the progressive infrastructure.”

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