This election will shake up advocacy organizations — no matter who wins

This content is provided by Capitol Canary.

Regardless of whether control of Congress shifts in November’s election, America’s advocacy organizations will be facing an entirely new world after Election Day.  

Thousands of groups work to influence federal and state government, from nonprofits and trade associations to companies large and small. These groups are forced to scramble and adapt every time a major election shifts the political landscape—and this year’s midterm will pack plenty of change. 

With control of Congress, 46 state legislatures and 36 gubernatorial seats at stake, more than 7,000 offices are on the ballot and the number of candidates is more than twice that. Whatever the partisan outcome, the Election will bring a flood of new faces—and sometimes new agendas—into all corners of government. 

With that much action, it is hard to think of a major issue that will remain completely unchanged. Reproductive rights, pandemic recovery, gun control, immigration, race relations and dozens of other issues could all take new paths based on the outcome. The issues you care about are also very likely on that list. 

Here are some of the highlights of what’s at stake and how it could impact the political landscape.

The Federal Government

The partisan breakdown in Congress will be the most watched and the most consequential outcome of the election. 

  • The U.S. House. The House is narrowly controlled by Democrats 220-212, with three vacant seats (one formerly held by a Republican and two by Democrats). It takes 218 seats to reach a majority and all 435 voting seats are up for election. The common wisdom, and historical precedent, holds that Republicans will pick up seats and have a solid chance of gaining control. The president’s party has lost House seats in 19 of the last 21 midterm elections, according to The American Presidency Project.

  • The U.S. Senate. The Senate is split 50-50, factoring in two independent members who caucus with Democrats. Democrats currently control the chamber by virtue of the vice president’s tie-breaking vote, though they are hampered by Senate rules that enable the minority to block legislation. Thirty-four seats are up for regular election this year, meaning 15 Republicans and 13 Democrats will be on the ballot, along with six open seats (five of which were held by Republicans). The outcome in the Senate is less certain than in the House.

  • The Biden Administration. If Republicans take either chamber of Congress, it will deal a major blow to the administration’s ability to move legislation and project its message. The administration has been able to get major bills through Congress in the last two years, including those addressing prescription drug costs, climate change, gun control, infrastructure and pandemic relief. That will stop, and more intense partisan fighting will almost certainly begin, if Republicans take even one chamber and gain the political platform that comes with it.

  • The 2024 Presidential Race. The party that dominates the midterm will carry momentum into the next presidential contest. Republican victories in the midterm could mean headwinds for Biden. His approval rating was 42% in September, according to Gallup, well below the average for U.S. presidents at this point in their term, which is 56%.

State Governments

While the federal government often grabs the headlines in an election, more policy work—and probably more advocacy—is done at the state level. At a minimum, states pass far more legislation than Congress, and many of the issues dominating the national conversation, such as abortion rights, gun control, pandemic recovery and voting rights, are now effectively regulated by state lawmakers. There’s also plenty of change coming to America’s state capitals.

  • Governors. Fully 72% of the nation’s gubernatorial seats are on the ballot. Republicans hold 28 governorships nationwide compared to 22 for Democrats. Of the 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs this year, 20 are held by Republicans and 16 are held by Democrats. There will almost certainly be a new crop of governors for advocacy organizations to meet.

  • State Legislatures. With legislatures facing voters in 46 states (the exceptions are Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia) more than 6,000 state legislative seats will be on the ballot. That means many, many new faces. It could also tweak the partisan balance nationwide. Right now, 61% of legislatures are controlled by Republicans and 35% by Democrats, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Divided legislatures are rare. (The counts do not include Nebraska, which elects members of a unicameral legislature on a nonpartisan basis.)

  • One-Party Control. The number of states in which one party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, sometimes called a “trifecta,” is worth watching. Republicans currently hold 23 states and Democrats hold 14, with 12 states operating under divided control (not counting Nebraska), according to the NCSL.

Of course, there are more offices facing voters as you travel down the ballot, including statewide positions like treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state. There are also local races, such as city councils and mayors. 

As if the sheer numbers weren’t a big enough challenge, there will also likely be anomalies such as close races, recounts and court challenges. It’s a lot to track for America’s advocacy organizations, which will spend the entire fourth quarter and the early part of next year assessing what happened, what it means and how to adjust. There’s a lot of work ahead—no matter who wins.

To learn more about how your organization can make an impact in the states, download Capitol Canary from Quorum’s Driving Impact in the States eguide today.     

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