Cicilline’s Departure Opens an Opportunity: Ballots & Boundaries

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Rep. David Cicilline’s upcoming resignation might propel a woman to Congress for only the second time in Rhode Island’s history — and for the first time, she’d be a Democrat.

State Sen. Sandra Cano said she intends to run and state Sens. Meghan Kallman and Dawn Euer are considering it.

Others weighing a bid in the heavily Democratic 1st District include Helena Buonanno Foulkes, a former CVS Health executive and Hudson’s Bay Co. CEO who ran for governor in 2022 and placed a close second in the Democratic primary to incumbent Dan McKee; Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos; and former Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

Why so many potential female contenders? There are only two US House districts in the state, forcing hopefuls to bide their time if they don’t want to go after an incumbent in a primary. And in the years since Cicilline first went to Congress, the state’s political pipeline changed.

In 2010, Rhode Island ranked 30th among the 50 states in the share of state legislators who are women; it rose to as high as 3rd in 2021 and now ranks 7th, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).

Right now, Rhode Island is among 11 states with an all-male congressional delegation, Kelly Dittmar, a Rutgers University–Camden political scientist and CAWP scholar, said in an email. “In a state that ranks in the top 10 for women’s state legislative representation, we know that this is not a supply problem,” she said.

Rhode Island’s sole congresswoman was Republican Claudine Schneider, who served from 1981 to 1991. — Greg Giroux

WISCONSIN: Everyone Will Be Watching
For the next five weeks, no high-stakes campaigns will be competing with Judge Janet Protasiewicz and ex-Justice Daniel Kelly for donations. So we’re buckling in as new records are set in the race to decide the ideological lean of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Fair Courts America, a conservative group funded by Wisconsin packaging billionaire Richard Uihlein, has booked about $3 million in commercials backing Kelly, according to the firm AdImpact. Protasiewicz has booked $4.8 million in ads, joined by $3 million in spending from outside groups.

Already this contest has exceeded Wisconsin’s most expensive Supreme Court race in 2020, when $10 million was spent and Kelly lost his place on the bench. The national record is roughly $20 million, according to a 2022 analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice. — Alex Ebert

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House ’24

CALIFORNIA: ‘Leaner’ District
Democrat George Whitesides, a former Virgin Galactic CEO and NASA chief of staff, said he’ll run in the 2024 election to unseat Rep. Mike Garcia, one of 18 House Republicans from districts Joe Biden carried in 2020.

Garcia in the past three elections faced Democrat Christy Smith, a former state assemblywoman who lost by just 333 votes in November 2020. California’s 27th District, which takes in northern Los Angeles County, was more favorable to Republicans in November 2022, when Garcia was reelected by 53%-47% and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom lost the district by 51%-49%.

Garcia is a member of the Appropriations Committee and joined its Defense Subcommittee for the 118th Congress. The aerospace and defense industries are major employers in the district.

California’s Top 2 primary is in March 2024. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates the race as leaning Republican. — Greg Giroux

CALIFORNIA: ‘He Wants to Be in Congress’
Word of a prospective candidacy has come from an unusual source: a would-be target. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) described a conversation with ex-San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D). He explained that he’s polling as he considers running in either her district or that of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). “I told him it’s a free country. He can run if he wants,” Lofgren told San José Spotlight. “But I plan to run and I don’t usually run to lose.”

MICHIGAN: Staying Put
Score this decision as a victory for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Freshman Rep. John James (R) filed paperwork to run for reelection to his Detroit-area House seat, opting against a campaign for the state’s open Senate seat, the Associated Press reports.

Senate ’24

ARIZONA: Current Sheriff, Former Candidate
Unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is moving toward a 2024 Senate campaign announcement as soon as June, the Washington Post reported. Lake is a Republican, as is Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County who tweeted that he may run as well. (H/T Meet the Press blog)

CALIFORNIA: Representative Who?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s would-be successors have a lot of turf to cover as they introduce themselves statewide. Pollsters with Berkeley IGS talked to 7,512 registered California voters. When people registered with no party preference or registered as Democrats were asked about Rep. Adam Schiff, 39% said they couldn’t offer an opinion.

Even more were unfamiliar with Rep. Katie Porter (47%), who was the first to enter the contest, or the most recent entrant, Rep. Barbara Lee (more than 60%). Like Feinstein, those three declared candidates are Democrats. READ MORE from the Los Angeles Times.

UTAH, WEST VIRGINIA: Still Pondering
We crossed two names off the undecided list this week: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). After recess-week interviews, we’re still in suspense about what Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) might do.

Romney said he’ll decide about running “sometime in the spring or summer,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported. “I’m confident that I would win if I decide to run. I’ll have the resources, and I believe the people of Utah would be with me,” he said.

Manchin said in a radio interview that he’s still undecided. You can listen to that interview here. Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Justice (R-W.Va.) told SiriusXM’s Julie Mason that he’s getting close to a decision about going after Manchin’s seat. (Hat tip: Punchbowl News)

Ballot Questions ’23

MAINE: ‘Right to Repair’
A proposal to require auto manufacturers to give independent repair shops access to diagnostic systems—what backers call the “right to repair”—has qualified for the November ballot.

Mirroring a 2020 law in Massachusetts, the proposed referendum targets automobile diagnostic data that is transmitted wirelessly from vehicles directly to manufacturers — information that independent shops currently cannot access. (AP)

OHIO: Abortion Measure
An abortion question might be on Ohio’s 2023 ballot. Backers have taken the first step by submitting a proposed constitutional amendment to the attorney general’s office.

It calls for establishing “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits” — language similar to a constitutional amendment Michigan voters approved in November. Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom are pushing the measure in a campaign they estimate could cost up to $36 million. (AP)

Ballot Question ’24

NEVADA: Prison Labor
Last fall, voters revised state constitutions in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont to ban slavery and involuntary servitude.

The electorate will be asked to do the same next year in Nevada, where the founding document allows involuntary servitude “in the punishment for crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

The Legislature approved the proposed amendment for the ballot as the ACLU of Nevada said it’s considering litigation related to the pay and working conditions of incarcerated women at prison firefighting camps. (AP)

Election Law

Legislation headed to Gov. Tim Walz would restore voting rights to convicted felons as soon as they get out of prison instead of continuing to require them to complete their parole before they can cast a ballot. Walz (D) has said he’ll sign it. (AP)


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To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at; Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Loren Duggan at

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