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The Legislature In Nashville Is Out Of Control, But The 2020 Project Offers Hope

2020 will be a pivotal year for Tennessee politics and this is particularly true for the State House of Representatives These House seats are often overlooked, but in reality, that body plays a critical function in state government.  Moreover, because the Republicans don’t just control the House, but have a “supermajority,” there has been no check on the flow of horrible legislation in the past sessions.  Future901 has a plan to change that.

The Stakes

1)     Quorum-  The Tennessee Constitution gives the minority party an important protection from tyranny  by the majority.  Our Constitution requires “Not less than two-thirds of all the members to which each house shall be entitled shall constitute a quorum to do business.”  What this means in practice is that if 34 House members refuse to show to a session, the legislature in the House is shut down.  No bills can pass. No budget can pass.   It is a powerful tool to prevent the worst abuses of the majority.

 

There are currently 26 Dem Reps in the House.  If we flip 8 seats, the party will then have a powerful check to block some of the worst legislation and real negotiating leverage against gerrymandering when the House redraws the legislative maps in 2021.

 

Future901’s cofounder, Robert Donati (standing), shares Future901’s vision for 2020 at a fundraiser

Future901’s cofounder, Robert Donati (standing), shares Future901’s vision for 2020 at a fundraiser

 

2)     Legislation-    From bills criminalizing voter registration, to limiting whether our municipalities can regulate single use plastics, to implementation of a “block granting” scheme for TennCare that is sure to mean benefit cuts, the GOP has forced through one horrible bill after another. 

 

Arguably the most egregious bill has been Gov. Lee’s school voucher bill.  This bill is universally opposed by school districts throughout the state.   However, after a decade of receiving out-of-state lobbying money, the GOP forced through a bill that will only be implemented on Democratic counties (Shelby and Davidson).

 

Seeing the railroading of this legislative platform, a casual voter could be forgiven in viewing things as hopeless.  However, this overlooks how tenuous the GOP support really is.  This is most vividly illustrated in the voucher fight.  Despite its “supermajority,” the voucher proposal was still highly unpopular.  It required pork barrel payments to legislators and agreements to exempt Republican districts from being subjected to the plan.  Even still, the bill passed the House by just one vote.  (Inexcusably, one of those voting for the bill was Shelby County Rep John DeBerry).  If we flipped just one more seat in the 2018, this voucher bill would not have passed.  If we flip seats in 2020, then it will be that much harder for the GOP to force similar legislation though in the next session.

 

3)     Redistricting- Finally, 2020 is the critical year for redistricting.  The House that comes into office in 2020 will be the body that decides what the electoral maps look like in for the next decade in TN.  This is critically important.  We are one of the most gerrymandered states in the country and this is the opportunity to get a fair electoral map.  

 

As an illustration, Phil Bredesen garnered 43% of the votes in TN.  That is probably a fair approximation for the number of Dem voters in the state.  However, the Dems only control 27% of state House seats (26 of 99 seats).  Dems only have 15% of seats in the State Senate (5 of 33 seats).  Dems only have 22% (2 of 9 seats) in the US House of Representatives.  The primary reason for this imbalance is that the GOP got to redraw the maps in 2011 and they used that opportunity to massively gerrymander the state. 

 

The Plan

Over the past several months, a group of Future901 members has been formulating a plan that we call the 2020 Project. We will focus on flipping state House districts and will concentrate our efforts on the West TN races where we came just shy of victory in 2018.  Notably, in 2018, around 2.1 million votes were cast in Tennessee, yet, of the ten closest State House seats, the total margin of victory for those Republican was just 32,000 votes.  By targeting sufficient resources on these 10 districts, we can bridge that gap with the voters and flip these seats. 

Our focus is to target our efforts on 3-4 races in West Tennessee (other groups will be doing similar work in Middle and East TN races).  Our goal is to raise $155,000 between now and March 2020 to invest in these races.  Because Future901 is an independent PAC, we do not have the same constraints faced by the TNDP.  We can back strong candidates early in the primary.  We can provide them with significant early money.  We can also give them the tools usually only enjoyed by the Republicans in Tennessee.  We can educate the public on their opponents.  We can run polls showing the public their viability.  We can assist with canvassing and voter identification efforts. 

Additionally, we have come to the realization that it is not going to be sufficient to just flip Republican seats.  At least in the case of one Shelby County rep, we cannot trust him to fight for the best interests of his district or for a more equitable map.  We will therefore do everything in our power to see that this is John DeBerry’s last term in office.

We Need Your Help

Reality- the national party will not save us.  No “mega donor” from NY or CA is going to step in and help.  The work to be done to win falls outside what the TNDP or the Shelby County Dem Party are even allowed to do.  There is nobody but us.  Thankfully, we can be enough. 

 We have already started our fundraising committees and are scheduling fundraisers for the coming year.  We are also recruiting recurring donors.  We need your involvement.  Will you join Future901 in supporting candidates early?  We are going to need your help:

•                Recurring donations (even $10 a month helps)(https://secure.actblue.com/donate/future901-2020 )

•                Host a fundraiser

•                Canvassing in targeted districts.

If you are interested in helping or learning more, please reach out to Dave Cambron at davidpcambron@gmail.com or contribute here.

Together we can move Tennessee forward.

 

Robert Donati