Democrats are looking to wins in state and local elections for signs of a comeback, as the party tries to prove it can channel voter enthusiasm under the Trump presidency into votes and expand its reach after losing the White House. Democratic candidates in New Hampshire and New York pulled off upsets this week, flipping state legislative seats in districts Donald Trump won.
On Tuesday, Democrat Edith DesMarais won a New Hampshire House of Representatives seat while Christine Pellegrino, another Democratic candidate, won a New York state assembly seat. Both races took place in districts previously under Republican control that Trump won in November.
The Democratic bench severely eroded at the state level during former President Obama’s time in office, leaving the party with fewer potential candidates for federal office to choose from with a track record in government.
To rebuild, the party will need to win back state legislative seats held by Republicans. Regaining control of state legislatures as well as governorships will also be crucial for Democrats to exert any kind of meaningful influence on the redrawing of congressional district lines after the 2020 Census.
The party that does not control the presidency historically wins seats in midterm elections. The outcome of two state races, however, isn’t enough to demonstrate that a Democratic wave is on the horizon for 2018. Indeed, outright victory has so far eluded Democrats in high-profile congressional special elections in Kansas and Georgia since Trump took office, though Democrats have improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in races taking place in conservative strongholds.