By Jim Ellis
May 28, 2021 — Today, we complete our two-part series pertaining to the latest Senate happenings, covering the latter half of the alphabet from New Hampshire through Wisconsin.
• New Hampshire: If Gov. Chris Sununu (R) decides to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), then the Granite State will likely become the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity. In the only two publicly released polls this year testing such a pairing, Gov. Sununu leads in both.
Though New Hampshire has trended more Democratic at the top of the ticket in the past few elections and President Biden scored a better than expected 53-45 percent win here in November, Gov. Sununu has claimed three consecutive elections, including a 65 percent victory last year. The governor indicated he will make a decision about a Senate challenge during the summer. Should Sununu not make the race, Sen. Hassan becomes a clear favorite to win a second term.
• North Carolina: In another key Republican open seat, the North Carolina race appears to feature tough primaries in both parties. For the Republicans, whose eventual nominee will attempt to hold retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and ex-Rep. Mark Walker reside in the top tier, with the former state chief executive enjoying big leads in early polling.
For the Democrats, the primary appears to be winnowing down to a contest between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who lost her seat in November by just 401 votes statewide, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte).
This will be another toss-up, top-tier Senate race regardless of who emerges from each of the competitive nomination contests.
• Ohio: The Buckeye State’s open US Senate race is beginning to crystallize. The Democratic side is headed for consensus around US Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/ Youngstown) candidacy.
The Republicans look to have at least four strong candidates, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, ex-state Treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and possibly state senator and Cleveland Indians baseball club co-owner Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).
Businessmen Michael Gibbons and Bernie Moreno are also announced candidates, but they appear as second-tier contenders at this time. US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) remains a potential candidate. It appears that former US representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci is moving toward a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in lieu of again running for the Senate.
• Pennsylvania: Both parties appear headed for crowded primaries in Pennsylvania’s open Senate race. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has declared himself the Democratic leader, and brandishes internal polling supporting his claim. A small-sample Change Research poll (released May 24; 302 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters, weighted, online) finds him leading US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) 40-21 percent with all other potential candidates recording less than 10 percent support.
Rep. Lamb is not yet a Senate candidate and it’s not clear if he will enter the statewide contest. State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), the son of former Philadelphia mayor John Street, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) and Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh have the potential of becoming serious contenders.
Currently, businessman and former lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, and Afghan War veteran and ex-congressional candidate Sean Parnel,l appear to be the top Republican candidates. Several more individuals are potential candidates, meaning the field still has plenty of time to grow and settle.
Regardless of who represents both parties in the general election, the Pennsylvania race will be a key Senate focal point from a national political perspective.
• Vermont: Recently, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) has been making comments suggesting that he will run for a ninth term. If he does, the senator becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election. The Republicans’ best potential candidate, Gov. Phil Scott, has already said he will not run for the Senate even if the seat opens.
• Washington: Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (D) publicly indicated that she will seek a sixth term next year. The veteran senator, first elected in 1992, should easily breeze through her next re-election campaign.
• Wisconsin: The major factor in the Badger State Senate race is whether incumbent Ron Johnson (R) will seek a third term. Sen. Johnson, who pledged in 2010 to only serve 12 years, has made statements both indicating that he is leaning toward retiring and running for re-election. He will likely make a final decision when we approach autumn.
Several Democrats are already running. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks basketball club senior executive and ex-Obama White House aide Alex Lasry, and Milwaukee area state Sen. Chris Larson, a former minority leader, are officially in the race.
Should Sen. Johnson retire, Republicans have several options to replace him. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay), ex-Rep. Sean Duffy, and former Republican National Committee chairman and ex-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are all potential Senate candidates.