Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) announced Tuesday that the political action committee he founded would launch a campaign to flip state legislatures around the country.
In a conference call, Dean said that Democracy for America's "Purple to Blue Project" would work to swing state legislatures from Republican to Democrat, starting in Virginia, then adding three states in 2014. DFA plans to spend $750,000 on behalf of five candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates this year, said Nick Passanante, who will head the program for DFA.
Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate, stressed the importance of stopping what he described as extreme ideas being generated by lawmakers in state Capitols around the country. He focused on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, as well as lawmakers in Richmond but cited other examples, including the abortion bill signed Tuesday by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R).
“What DFA’s effort to do here is stop the right-wing extremists," Dean said. "This is about sane normal Americans taking on these extreme people with bizarre ideas.”
He stressed starting at the grassroots level, and indicated the project would be in place for several years and would be part of DFA's strategy to elect a Democrat to the White House in 2016.
Passanante said the group plans to expand next year to Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The states were selected, he said, based on the amount of swing districts that could be flipped from Republican to Democrat, along with the actions taken by Republican lawmakers there.
“We will send a powerful message to Republicans both in Virginia and across the country," Passanante said.
DFA plans a "data-driven campaign" on behalf of its chosen candidates, including working with grassroots activists and investing in direct mail and media. Passanante noted that the states selected all have gubernatorial races on the ballot, which should aid Democratic legislative candidates. In 2015, DFA plans to focus on state Senate and House races in Virginia. On Tuesday's call, DFA formally endorsed Democrats Jennifer Boysko and John Bell for state House seats in Virginia.
Dean also made a pitch to DFA supporters on the call to send donations to Boysko and Bell, and other DFA-backed state legislative candidates.
“A little money goes a long way in these state legislative races," he said.