The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● WI-03: Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District was one of several House seats that major Democratic groups abandoned last year only to see the final result turn out to be teeth-gnashingly close, and now local Democrats are weighing that history as they consider whether to tackle this seat once more.
State Sen. Brad Pfaff, who lost that open-seat contest to Republican Derrick Van Orden by a 52-48 margin, hasn't spoken publicly about running again, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that a source close to Pfaff says the lawmaker's decision will depend on whether organizations like the DCCC demonstrate a commitment to winning back the district in 2024. After longtime Rep. Ron Kind announced his retirement, the D-Trip wound up spending nothing at all to defend the 3rd, as did their allies at the House Majority PAC, which canceled $1.7 million in TV ad bookings at the end of October.
It's not entirely clear why the Democratic heavyweights largely stayed out (one group, Center Forward, did make a late $600,000 expenditure on Pfaff's behalf), but the decision likely reflected a combination of borked polling, fears that typical midterm patterns would hold sway, the district's rural nature and long-term rightward trend, and the fact that there was no incumbent to protect. There may have been a knock-on effect as well, since the DCCC left Pfaff off of its "Red to Blue" list of top districts and he was subsequently outraised by a giant $6.3 million to $1.9 million margin—a rare example of a Democrat in a competitive race falling far short financially in 2022.
Despite last year's outcome, Pfaff's two main primary opponents are also in the mix for another try: Businesswoman Rebecca Cooke says she's "strongly considering" a second bid, while former CIA officer Deb McGrath hasn't ruled it out, though both added they're currently focused on helping progressive Judge Janet Protasiewicz win her bid for the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 4. In last month's primary, Protasiewicz and another liberal candidate combined for approximately 56% of the vote in the 3rd District while two conservatives collectively took just 44%, according to Daily Kos Elections' preliminary calculations.
● CA-41: Democrat Tim Sheridan, who lost two previous challenges to Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, has announced he'll try a third time, though there's good reason for him to be more optimistic this go-round. Calvert handily turned back Sheridan 66-34 in 2014 and then by a 59-41 margin two years later in what was then known as the 42nd District. But following the most recent round of redistricting, this suburban Riverside seat was not only renumbered as the 41st, it became significantly bluer thanks to the addition of the gay mecca of Palm Springs: While Donald Trump won the old version 53-45, he carried the new iteration by just a 50-49 spread.
As a result, Calvert faced one of the closest elections of his career last year, defeating Democrat Will Rollins 52-48. Thanks to his strong performance, Rollins was quickly mentioned for a possible rematch, though he has yet to say anything publicly. Sheridan, meanwhile, followed his losses to Calvert by earning a seat on the City Council in Lake Elsinore (pop. 70,000) in 2018 and won re-election four years later. Whoever emerges as the Democratic standard-bearer, though, Calvert will be a top target in 2024.
● RI-01: Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who waged an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor last year, has announced that she won't run in the expected special election for Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District. Foulkes lost 33-30 to Gov. Dan McKee in the primary after partially self-funding her campaign.
The Democratic field did however grow larger on Tuesday with the entry of former state government official Nick Autiello, who finished third in a state Senate primary in 2018. Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Nathan Biah, who'd previously said he was considering the race, also filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible campaign.
● WI Supreme Court: Progressive Judge Janet Protasiewicz has unveiled two new TV ads attacking her conservative opponent in the April 4 race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The first spot once again attacks Dan Kelly for his opposition to abortion rights, though this time, it features a woman who says she had an abortion "so our daughter wouldn't suffer" due to her "severe health complications"; on-screen text explains the baby would not have been able "to survive on her own." She then castigates Kelly for wanting to "uphold the criminal ban on abortion."
The second ad goes in an entirely different direction, with several different people slamming Kelly as "corrupt" for recusing himself in a voter purge case, then "un-recusing" after the plaintiff's family donated $20,000 to his unsuccessful campaign for election to a full term on the Supreme Court in 2020. The court ultimately ruled against the conservative foundation that brought the suit the following year, when Kelly was no longer on the bench.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: Former longtime Rep. Bobby Rush, who represented a large part of the city of Chicago for 30 years until leaving Congress in January, has endorsed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in his April 4 runoff for mayor against Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. Rush's involvement makes him one of Vallas' most prominent Black supporters. (Vallas is white and Johnson is Black.)
● New Orleans, LA Mayor: The effort to remove New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell from office early came to an end on Tuesday when officials announced that organizers had fallen far short of the necessary number of petitions to trigger a recall election. Just over 27,000 signatures turned out to be valid, far fewer than the requirement of nearly 45,000.
The well-financed campaign to oust Cantrell, which was nominally led by Democrats but was funded almost entirely by a major Donald Trump donor, attracted almost as much controversy as had the embattled mayor herself. Recall proponents reneged on a court-approved settlement to share copies of their petitions with the New Orleans Times-Picayune by insisting the paper pay $15,000 for documents that are considered public records, then reached an unusual agreement with Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to reduce the number of signatures needed by about 10%.
It later emerged that the judge who oversaw that second deal had herself signed a recall petition but failed to disclose that fact prior to blessing that settlement. That prompted Cantrell to file a pair of lawsuits seeking to overturn the agreement, but the matter is now moot. Barring a future recall attempt, Cantrell will be able to serve out the remainder of her second term, though she's barred by term limits from running for re-election when the post next goes before voters in 2025.