State and local candidates are the key to Democratic wins in 2024 and beyond. Learn how down-ballot candidates can help push the top of the ticket across the finish line.

You might be familiar with the idea that the top-of-the-ticket candidate has “coattails” – that the big-name elections for president or Senate bring people to the polls, and those people also vote for the rest of the ticket. But we’ve found that the reverse is also true: When Democrats run for down-ballot seats, whether or not they win, they help increase Democratic turnout and help elect Democrats at the top of the ticket. We call it “reverse coattails.”
Take Georgia, a state that President Biden won by about 11,000 votes (0.23 percent) in 2020, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since Bill Clinton in 1992. In a post-election analysis we conducted with BlueLabs Analytics (more on that below), we found that increased turnout from Democrats running down-ballot may have netted Biden as many as 22,000 additional votes – twice his margin of victory.
Looking at the results in not just Georgia but also Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida, we found that having Democratic candidates contest state legislative seats in 2020 meaningfully increased Democratic vote-share for the entire ticket. Simply having a Democratic candidate on the ballot increased turnout for the top of the ticket by anywhere from 0.4 percent to 2.3 percent, compared to a district where the Republican candidate ran unopposed.

Read our Reverse Coattails Op-Ed in Newsweek

In March 2024, we released the results of a survey of over 1,700 18-29 year old registered voters in battleground states (AZ, GA, MI, NV, NC, PA, and WI) that backed up that data. The poll concluded that young Democrats are more likely to vote this November if young, progressive candidates are on the ballot:

61% of 18-29-year-old Democrats said they would be more likely to vote if there was a young, progressive candidate for local or state office on the November 2024 ballot.

This poll proves that an investment in state and local candidates is more than an abstract contribution to the long-term health of the Democratic party – it’s a direct investment in helping save democracy by getting President Joe Biden and Democrats up and down the ticket elected this November. Reverse coattails will play a defining role in this year’s presidential election.
“Gen Z and young millennials’ values are progressive and more aligned with the Democratic party than Republicans. The challenge for Democrats, is and always has been turnout. The more young people vote, the better that is for Democrats – and this poll shows that having young progressives on the ballot only makes that easier,” said John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere, who conducted the poll.

Read About the Poll in Teen Vogue

BlueLabs Analytics Report

The Two Key Findings of our Research


In the states we examined, we see small increases in the statewide Democrat’s vote share within precincts where every state legislative seat on the ballot was contested by both parties.

Analysis of the 2020 implications of this effect suggests that the effect could have a meaningful impact on net votes, and we believe this may have been the case in GA in 2020. Further research into the turnout vs. support implications of contesting state legislative races could clarify this finding.


Across states and cycles, we estimate that the size of the effect ranges between a 0.4% and a 2.3% bump in top-of-ticket vote share. In no state or election cycle did we find a statistically significant effect that running Democrats in state legislative seats negatively impacted top-of-the-ticket performance. While Democratic candidates running in districts that would be otherwise uncontested Republican races may not win those seats, they may provide an important vote share bump in close statewide contests like Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General or even president.


The key to winning in 2024 and beyond cannot depend on hoping that a Congressional or statewide candidate will carry everyone else to victory, or betting on a national ad campaign or gimmicky messaging.

Holding existing seats, gaining new ones and protecting democracy at every level means remembering the old adage that “all politics is local.”

This research is counter to conventional wisdom – which assumes that the top of the ticket will do all the work and that national narratives and partisanship scores carry the day – and at the same time, deeply intuitive.

While voters may be turned off by unfulfilled campaign promises and mud-slinging in top-of- ticket races, they do care, intimately, about issues close to home, including and especially education, criminal justice and the environment. These are issues whose outcomes are shaped at the state and local level. Our research shows when trusted local candidates run on platforms with a community focus, turnout goes up, and not just for their races, but for every race –all the way to the top of the ticket.


Local races are personal – the candidates themselves knock doors, make calls, and meet voters where they’re at. These folks are able to have conversations that the top of the ticket simply doesn’t have the capacity for.

More practically, the maps don’t always overlap. The counties or precincts where the top of the ticket needs to turn out voters and the counties/precincts where a state legislative or school board candidate needs to win are not always the same. The organizing and communicating a local candidate does can make up for a lack of top-of-ticket investment in that community. 

This is why it matters to run in every race, no matter how long the odds. The dollars spent locally go further because they directly reach and educate voters through community based organizing in ways ad-buys and big campaigns can’t. They also build political infrastructure and talent, allowing for us to take a deep red district and over many years, turn it competitive. No race goes from 70/30 to 50/50 overnight! 

Capitalizing on the research and reasoning around reverse coattails is a sure-fire approach to building momentum and gaining power in 2024 and beyond.