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Third Ward City Council candidate Steve Fletcher knocks on doors in Minneapolis in 2017. Photo: Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Contest Every Race, a new coalition of Democratic groups, is launching a seven-figure campaign to challenge Republican incumbents in 26,849 down-ballot local races, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: 2020 is more than just the presidential election. Democrats are getting serious about trying to gain more power at the local level, whether through city council seats, school boards, or state legislatures.

  • There are 520,000 elected offices in the country.
  • As many as 75% go uncontested, per the group, ceding many of those seats to Republicans.

State legislatures, which oversee everything from infrastructure to gerrymandering to abortion laws, are particularly important. State maps identifying congressional districts are set to be redrawn before the 2022 midterm elections. That means local candidates elected in 2020 will help determine future congressional battlegrounds.

  • During Barack Obama's presidency, Democrats lost at least 1,000 state legislative seats, which they're still working to recapture.

"The GOP is no longer going to get a free pass at the local level," said Kelly Dietrich, founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee.

By the numbers: The group is working to find and recruit progressive candidates in five battleground states: Florida, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, and Iowa. Contest Every Race is banking on personalized attention and texting technologies to make it easier to identify and prepare Democratic challengers.

  • "Filing for your first political office can be intimidating, to say the least,” said Shameria Ann Davis, a local school board member in Texas who was elected in 2018. “The consistent texting, information, and friendliness of Contest Every Race was immeasurable.”
  • When Democrats concede the field in down-ballot races, it tends to depress turnout, said Yoni Landau, CEO of Resistance Labs. "We need to build a bench to take state legislatures."

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

11 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.