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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."

Go deeper

Several states declare emergency over Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas intensify aerial bombardments

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11. Photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.