Senate Democrats announced Wednesday they are making an unprecedented early investment in field programs ahead of the 2022 midterms, spending $30 million in nine key states as they seek to defend their narrow majority.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told CQ Roll Call he saw the value of an early focus on field organizing in his own hotly contested reelection race last year.
Peters, who was a top GOP target last cycle, noted that his campaign started investing in organizing, and particularly in helping voters cast absentee ballots, as early as January 2018. He defeated his Republican opponent, Army veteran John James, by 2 points last fall, as President Joe Biden was winning Michigan by 3 points.
“We were able to have a very robust program of identifying Democrats, making sure that they had the opportunity to vote absentee and then made sure that was happening,” Peters said in a brief interview off the Senate floor. “And we had record amounts of absentee ballots cast. It was a difference-maker in the election. So I just appreciate how a very robust ground campaign can make a difference.”
Peters is now at the helm of his party’s campaign committee for the 2022 cycle as Democrats attempt to protect and expand their Senate majority. Republicans need a net gain of just one seat next year to retake the chamber.
The DSCC said Wednesday it was launching a “Defend the Majority Program,” in partnership with state parties, to hire field staff, open DSCC field offices and launch volunteer training programs.
The initial $30 million will also go toward hiring organizers focused on outreach to communities of color and younger voters, as well as communications staffers “focused on defining GOP Senate candidates” and staffers dedicated to “voter protection,” according to a press release.
Field organizing, Peters said, “is not something you can start in an election year. To be really effective, you’ve got to start in the off year.”
Peters did not directly address whether the early investment was an attempt to correct Democrats’ decision to largely halt in-person field programs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve always had very robust field operations,” he said. “So it’s basically a core part of all of our campaigns.”
The DSCC said the new investment was the largest the committee has ever made in field organizing at this point in an election cycle. The investment will be focused on nine states, including Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents face competitive races.
The funds will also be focused on states where Republicans are defending seats, such as North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates all those states but Ohio as Senate battlegrounds in 2022.
The funds may be a fraction of what the DSCC ultimately spends on the midterms. In the 2020 cycle, the committee spent more than $304 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.