Crime Dominates Wisconsin Campaign Finale: Ballots & Boundaries

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Heading into the home stretch of the most expensive judicial race in US history, crime is the focus of ad campaigns and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the victim in a rape case featured in commercials called them inaccurate and traumatizing.

The groups behind the ads replied that they contained “factually accurate and publicly available information,” the newspaper reported.

We’ll be watching for whether those spots help drive turnout Tuesday for former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, or if more voters are swayed by the abortion rights argument of commercials supporting Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

The winner of the 10-year term on the bench will decide cases of national import, potentially including redistricting and presidential election challenges. Catch up on the coverage:

What’s next: Only one other state, Pennsylvania, will elect a Supreme Court justice this year. The nominees for the November general election will be chosen May 16.

And while we’re talking about Wisconsin, that state has a US Senate election next year and incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin has finally revealed her timeline for declaring whether she’ll run again or retire. In an impromptu interview, the Democrat said her announcement will be in mid-April and we should “stay tuned.”

Meantime, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) tells us he expects to make a decision on his political future over the two-week recess and announce in April. “I’m in the process” of deciding, he said. — Zach C. Cohen & Erik Wasson

House ’24

SWING DISTRICTS: Energy Independents
Vulnerable House members showed some independence during House consideration of the Republican energy package. Four Democrats voted with the GOP majority on H.R. 1, including Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) and Jared Golden (Maine) from districts that went for Donald Trump in 2020.

Ten Republicans from districts Joe Biden carried in 2020, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and all six from New York, helped sink an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) that would have blocked some fracking regulations.

Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) was backed by 48 Democrats on his amendment to require a federal study on how a ban on gas appliances would affect electricity costs and 29 Democrats crossed party lines to vote for an amendment by Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) to bar the Biden administration from issuing any rules to limit deployment of gas stoves. — Greg Giroux

RHODE ISLAND: Democratic Deluge
A battle royale is brewing in a soon-to-be-vacant Rhode Island district.

More than half a dozen Democrats already are vying to succeed Rep. David Cicilline (D) in the 1st District, where election officials tentatively set party primaries for Sept. 5 and the special general election for Nov. 7.

The tilt of the district makes the Democratic primary the race to watch. Gov. Dan McKee (D) won it by 27 percentage points in the 2022 election.

The candidates include Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, state Sen. Sandra Cano, state Reps. Stephen Casey and Nathan Biah, Providence councilman John Goncalves, and Nick Autiello, a former aide to ex-Gov. Gina Raimondo. McKee can make the election schedule official once Cicilline formally resigns June 1 to lead the Rhode Island Foundation. — Greg Giroux and Zach C. Cohen

Before they spend the next two years going head-to-head, Democratic and Republican Congressional campaign organizations have shown they have something in common.

The groups are backing a proposal to loosen Federal Election Commission restrictions on when a candidate can draw a salary from their campaign funds.

In separate comments, Senate and House Democratic campaign arms and the House Republican campaign arm, said current policies prevent candidates from running for office if they don’t have enough savings since running a campaign is a full-time job.

Right now, candidates can’t take a salary between when they file to run and when they qualify for the ballot, as well as between the general election and being sworn in.

The flip side comes from former FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith, who said during a hearing on the proposal that removing some of the limit could run afoul of spending limits set by law. — Emily Wilkins

Voting Law

CALIFORNIA: Manual Labor
Rural Shasta County will be the first in California to hand-count ballots in future elections.

County supervisors — a board dominated by supporters of Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud — moved to ban Dominion Voting Machines in January, but will continue to use machines from either Hart InterCivic or Election Systems & Software to allow disabled voters to cast a ballot.

The price tag: $1.6 million to hire more than 1,200 ballot-counters for a presidential election, according to a county elections department analysis. That doesn’t include the rental for bigger ballot-counting venue, nor the likely legal challenges the policy change invites.

My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell has said he’d support the county financially against lawsuits. —Tiffany Stecker

Caught Our Eye

Republicans Face Setbacks in Push to Tighten Voting Laws on College Campuses (NY Times)

See You In Two Weeks

Ballots & Boundaries will next publish on April 14.


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To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at; Zach C. Cohen in Washington at; Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at; Emily Wilkins in Washington at; Erik Wasson in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Bennett Roth at

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