California Democrat who almost won seeks a rematch

Will Rollins, a Democratic congressional hopeful from Palm Springs, was attending the new member orientation in 2022 when news alerts came across his phone that he’d lost the race to veteran Rep. Ken Calvert, dean of the California Republican delegation.

Rollins and his partner retreated to their Washington hotel bar where the TVs were carrying news about former President Donald Trump’s 2024 announcement. Months after the setback, Rollins told POLITICO that with many of the same dangers to the country that he’d warned about looming larger next year, he’s launching another challenge to Calvert for the Inland congressional seat.

“The first and foremost urgent threat that I see in this coming election is again to democracy and the rule of law,” Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, said in announcing his 2024 run Tuesday. “If Trump is the nominee, and we’ve got a House of Representatives that is unwilling to certify the results of a democratic election, everything America stands for collapses.”

Rollins’ formal entry into the race again throws into play a tight district that became a bluer as part of the last redistricting process, including picking up Palm Springs and its large LGBTQ community. National Democrats are heartened not just by Rollins’ close loss to Calvert in 2022, where he was among the top overperformers in the country, but also by recent swings in voter registration that gives the party a slim advantage. Trump narrowly carried the 41st district in 2020, and Democrats expect it to go to Biden in 2024. And they view Rollins as having the kind of profile that could appeal to unaligned voters in a fast-changing part of the state.

Rollins added: “I think we built a really great foundation for flipping the seat in ’24, and I’m not masochistic enough to do it twice without knowing I can win.”

The region has been a political hotbed, with another likely rematch further down the ballot coming between state Assembly member Greg Wallis (R-Bermuda Dunes) and Democrat Christy Holstege.

While at least two other Democrats have announced plans to challenge Calvert for the House seat he’s held for more than three decades, Rollins’ announcement comes with heavy reinforcement, including Day 1 endorsements from Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, and all three major Democratic US Senate candidates , Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.

In the interview, Rollins said he plans to talk up his support for congressional term limits, which he favors as six terms for the House and three in the US Senate. He favors a cap on Supreme Court justice terms and likes the idea of ​​federal circuit judges that rotate on and off of the high court. Rollins said he doesn’t favor age limits for elected officials, though.

“The concern I have with a blanket rule at age is that some people can function very well at an older age and some people at a younger age are incompetent,” he said.

He wasted no time in assailing Cavert for earmarking money over his long career in Congress and personally profiting off of the projects. He repeatedly sought to tie Calvert to the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, refusing to certify the 2020 results in key battleground states and later downplaying the legal severity for the rioters. Rollins also pointed to recent contributions to Calvert’s campaign from the likes of GOP firebrands Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan. Democrats have also tried to paint Calvert as being out of step with the district’s redrawn values, particularly around LGBTQ rights.

Abortion rights, too, will be a major differentiator this time, Rollins said.

“I think in ’22, some voters in states like California and New York may not perceive the threat to reproductive health care access as credible. They thought they lived in blue states so they would be safe,” he said. “That is absolutely not the case in ’24 when Congress and the White House are up for grabs.”

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