Morning Digest: Wisconsin Democrats unite behind labor-backed candidate for schools chief

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

WI Schools Superintendent: Wisconsin held primaries for a variety of state and local offices on Tuesday, with the job of superintendent of public instruction topping the ticket. Jill Underly led Deborah Kerr 27-26 for this nonpartisan office, meaning the two will advance to an April 6 runoff for this open seat.

Both candidates are school administrators and identify as Democrats, but there's a sharp difference between the two: Underly had the support of several teachers unions, including the state's largest, while Kerr was backed by Republicans. On Wednesday, Underly won the endorsement of the Wisconsin Democratic Party while Kerr found herself issuing a no-pology and deleting her social media accounts after posting a bizarre tweet in which she claimed she'd been the victim of a racial slur used to target Blacks (Kerr is white).

The post is open because the current incumbent, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, decided not to run for election. Stanford Taylor was appointed to the position in 2019 by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to fill the vacancy he himself left when he was elected to the governorship.


GA-Sen: Contrary to a report earlier this week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that suggested he might defer to former Sen. David Perdue, it certainly sounds like former Rep. Doug Collins has no interest in waiting on any fellow Republicans before deciding whether to go forward with a bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. "I've been underestimated for many years. We're sitting back and watching this develop," he told a conservative radio host. Referring to a Tuesday press release Perdue issued, Collins said, "David must have felt the need to put out a statement …. People know I'm still looking at it."

Campaign Action

PA-Sen: Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who'd reportedly been considering a bid for Senate, confirmed his interest on Tuesday, saying, "It's certainly something I'm thinking about," though he did not specify a timetable for making a decision.

WI-Sen: On Wednesday, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry announced a bid for the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican who has not announced yet if he'll seek a third term in 2022. Lasry entered the contest with an endorsement from Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, who leads the most populous county in the state.

Lasry, who previously served as an Obama White House aide, is the son of billionaire Marc Lasry, who is a Bucks co-owner and a major Democratic donor. (In 2014, Marc Lasry and another financier bought the team from none other than Herb Kohl, a Democrat who held Wisconsin's other Senate seat from 1989 until his retirement in 2013.) The younger Lasry said that he would "invest" in his campaign, but that he would also focus on raising money from small donors as well.

Lasry, though, attracted some unfavorable press coverage weeks before he entered the race after the 33-year-old received a shot of the coronavirus vaccine at a senior living center. Lasry tweeted in response, "My wife got a call from her uncle that works in a facility that had extra doses that were going to go to waste if not used right away," and added that he believed it was necessary to protect his pregnant spouse.

Lasry joins Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who launched his campaign back in October, in the primary. The Badger State will be one of the top Democratic targets next year and a few other potential candidates are also publicly considering entering the nomination fight, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and nonprofit head Steven Olikara.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel adds that both state Sen. Chris Larson, who lost a very close race against Crowley for Milwaukee County executive last year, and Randy Bryce, who was the party's 2018 nominee for the 1st Congressional District, are "weighing their options," though neither of them appears to have said anything publicly yet.


IL-16: Just a month after launching a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger following the congressman’s vote to impeach Donald Trump, Gene Koprowski, a former official for the conservative Heartland Institute, has terminated his campaign. That leaves a couple of minor intra-party opponents still in the field: perennial candidate James Marter, who lost to Kinzinger 68-32 in 2018, and businessman Jack Lombardi, who doesn't appear to have run for office before.


AK State House: While the bipartisan coalition led by Alaska House Democrats was finally able to elect a new speaker last week, it's not quite clear whether the alliance enjoys a functional majority just yet. The Republican who crossed over to provide the tie-breaking vote for the speakership, state Rep. Kelly Merrick, initially insisted she hadn't joined the coalition, though now the new speaker, Republican Louise Stutes, claims that Merrick is part of the majority—though Merrick herself has refused to answer reporters' questions as to just which side she's on.

This murky state of affairs may resolve itself after the chamber's "Committee on Committees" meets to allocate leadership posts and committee assignments. It takes a 21-vote majority for the Committee on Committee's report to be approved, which means the coalition will need Merrick's support for its preferred assignments to take effect. However, it's not clear when such a vote will take place.

The Republican caucus, meanwhile, watched itself shrink on Tuesday when state Rep. Sara Rasmussen said she would no longer remain a part of it. Rasmussen isn't joining the coalition, though, but instead will serve on her own. However, regardless of how she votes in general, her move is a blow to the GOP because it will reduce the number of slots Republican hardliners are entitled to on committees.