June 23 2020
Swati Mylavarapu

Spend Smarter to Flip the Senate Blue

June 23 2020
Swati Mylavarapu

Democrats have a strong wave of enthusiasm heading into November, putting control of the Senate in play, but we’re facing a coordination problem.


If you’re one of the millions of Americans who, like me, dreams about Mitch McConnell turning his gavel over to a Democratic Senate leader next January, we have to solve that problem quickly.


When I was working with Pete on his presidential campaign, we often discussed how this November isn’t just about beating the guy in the White House; this election is about getting Democrats in a position to govern and move the country forward. Period.


Now, I receive daily questions from members of our Incite community about how they can best support Democrats up and down the ballot in addition to the Presidential election. My answer always includes: we must win back the Senate.


The Senate map is becoming increasingly promising for Democrats this fall. Out of 35 races, 23 are currently held by a Republican. Of those, five are a toss-up or lean Democrat – and another nine aren’t guaranteed to go Red. 


Democrats only need to flip four seats to win a Senate majority. 


This opportunity is un-missable because the stakes are so high. Without effective leadership, the U.S. Senate has become the poster child for dysfunctional government, a graveyard for bills that, if passed, would actually improve Americans’ health care, reform our broken immigration system and address the devastating impacts of climate change.


So what will it take? 


The secret to an unexpected campaign victory is an exceptional candidate. And Democrats have a slate of exceptional candidates running to flip the Senate this November. 


Community organizers like Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, civil rights leaders like Reverend Raphael Warnock in Georgia, and new-generation military veterans like MJ Hegar in Texas and Cal Cunningham in North Carolina. 



Democrats also have the powerful force of grassroots supporters on our side; over 2.3 million Americans have decided that they are fed up with the current lack of leadership and donated to Senate campaigns this cycle. The Democratic donor base is twice as large as Republicans’. We are powering Senate and House races with huge numbers of grassroots donors chipping in $5 and $20.20. 


But we must do a better job of organizing those millions of donations to resource a larger set of Senate candidates to actually ensure that we win a majority in November. A huge percentage of donor attention has focused on just 6 Senate races–AZ, KY, SC, ME, and MI–with the top two, AZ and KY, raising $30M each through March. We need to spread the resources. 


We need to do a better job of supporting the slightly more-of-a-stretch, but winnable seats that are as-yet underfunded: Raphael Warnock’s special election race in Georgia, Cal Cunningham’s bid in North Carolina, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, Barbara Bollier in Kansas and MJ Hegar in Texas. 


A smart Senate funding strategy understands that if you take twice as many shots, you’re more likely to score a goal, but because pundits tend to focus on the four top Senate races, contributions disproportionately head to those campaigns. Additionally, campaigns taking on widely unpopular incumbents (e.g., Susan Collins in Maine) are much more likely to raise money from grassroots supporters organically.


We need all candidates to be properly resourced in order to win in November.


Specifically, races in North Carolina, Georgia (special), Kansas, Iowa, Texas and Montana are primed for Democrat victory as Republicans fumble their pandemic responses. These races require more funding and donor interest to flip.


We also need to make sure that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has the funding they need to supercharge the most competitive races in the months leading up to the election. The DSCC will guide resources where they’re needed in the critical final months. And they’re able to help even the resourcing gap between campaigns as the landscape changes continues to shift and respond to current events. Right now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has a larger war chest ($33M vs. Dem’s $24M) and they’ve kept up with our fundraising at $76M each this cycle.


Donating is not the only way we can support these candidates. Getting involved with this election is about much more than fiscal contributions: volunteering to call your fellow voters, sharing who you’re excited about with your friends and family, and registering everyone you know to register to vote this November– this work makes a difference.


Particularly in this moment, when the pandemic and protests and the White House dominate media coverage, we need to use our voices to uplift the candidates who need it most and who will bring public service back to Washington. 


Every effort can help us win back the Senate in November. If you’d like to get involved, send us a note to We’d be thrilled to include you in our efforts.


Let’s win, together.

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