Tag Archives: Tennessee

2020 Senate Review – Part III

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2019
— The third and final segment of our three-part Senate review covers the races alphabetically from North Carolina through Wyoming, with a re-visit to the new open seat in New Mexico:

  • New Mexico – Sen. Tom Udall (D)Open Seat – Since our Senate review began, Sen. Udall, who looked to be a lock for election to a third term, announced he will not run in 2020. Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, but Republicans have won statewide races here as late as 2014, so the potential for a competitive 2020 campaign exists.
    So far, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) both confirm they are considering running, as is 2018 Republican nominee Mick Rich. Two individuals have already said they will not enter the Senate race: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber (D). Many more potential candidacies from both parties are being discussed. Currently, this open seat earns at the very least a Lean Democrat rating but is realistically Likely Democratic.

  • North Carolina – Sen. Thom Tillis (R) – This will be a top-tier race, as are almost all North Carolina Senate races. Sen. Tillis ousted then-Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in 2014 in a state that has re-elected only one senator since the days of Sam Ervin (D) and Jesse Helms (R).
    The Democrats failed to recruit their top target in Attorney General Josh Stein (D), and so far, their field is second tier. Only Mecklenburg County commissioner-at-large Trevor Fuller (D) and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) have declared their candidacy.
    Sen. Tillis received pushback for originally opposing President Trump’s emergency border declaration, which has fueled rumors of a potential primary challenge. Therefore, the North Carolina campaign is in a state of flux. Much will change here in the coming year to affect the outcome. Currently, rate this seat as Lean Republican.

  • Oklahoma – Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) – The major discussion surrounds whether 84-year-old veteran Sen. Inhofe will retire. If he runs, the election campaign may be slightly more competitive based upon the 2018 Oklahoma results, in which the Democrats made some significant gains. Even if they continue to build momentum, their chances of winning a statewide election in the Sooner State still remain slim. Likely Republican until it becomes clear whether or not Sen. Inhofe will seek re-election.

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The Early Senate Maneuvers

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2019 — Though it is only January of the off-year, already early moves are being made in anticipation of an active 2020 US Senate campaign cycle. With 34 in-cycle Senate races on the ballot, as many as 16, at this point, could become competitive in either the primary or general election.

Below is a quick synopsis of the latest happenings in several states:


OPEN SEATS

• Kansas: The open seat is Kansas is already active with backroom discussions. After first indicating that he would not leave his current position to run for the Senate, pressure is being put on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to re-consider his decision to stay out of the battle to succeed the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R).

Facing a badly split Republican Party in the Sunflower State, many GOP leaders at the state and federal level believe that Pompeo would be the best candidate to unify the disparate factions, which would enable him to easily hold the seat in the general election. This, after the party just lost the governorship.

• Tennessee: Former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) left office on Saturday and says he will decide in the next few weeks whether to seek retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) open seat. No one has yet come forward to announce his or her candidacy — the prospective field presumably frozen until Haslam makes public his political plans. Should the former governor decide to run, he would quickly become a prohibitive favorite in the Republican primary and general election.
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Senate: Early Handicapping

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2019 — The 2020 Senate election cycle features 34 races instead of 33 because of the Arizona special, and this time it is the Republicans who must defend the preponderance of seats. In 2018, Democrats held 26 of the 35 seats up for election; in this cycle, Republicans must protect 22 of the 34 Senate positions.

Republicans are first risking two open seats, those of Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. At this point, both should remain in the GOP column. They also face a slew of competitive races in as many as eight incumbent states. Democrats, on the other hand, must defend in one highly competitive campaign, that of Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, and a potentially viable contest in Minnesota.

But the most vulnerable Republican races will attract serious political attention. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), and North Carolina first term incumbent Thom Tillis are facing difficult election or re-election campaigns, in addition to Sen. Jones.

Martha McSally lost the 2018 Arizona Senate race to new Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) by 55,900 votes of more than 2.384 million ballots cast, or a margin of 2.4 percentage points. This, however, in the same election where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey scored a strong 56-42 percent re-election victory.

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Sen. Alexander to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)

Dec. 19, 2018 — Last week, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) campaign released an internal survey that tested the three-term incumbent’s favorability ratings, which showed excellent results. Accompanying the release was the senator’s promise to announce his 2020 re-election decision before the end of the year.

He kept the announcement promise, but his decision, which he announced Monday, proved surprising. Spending the money to conduct a poll and releasing the strong results is usually a prelude to announcing for re-election, but not in this case; Sen. Alexander made public his decision to retire in 2020.

Tennessee voters will now elect another new senator for the second time in a two-year cycle. Sen. Bob Corker’s (R) retirement this year opened the door for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) to win the open 2018 campaign, but now potential Senate candidates will immediately get another chance.

Tennessee’s vote history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will begin the 2020 general election cycle in the favorite’s position. This year, Democrats fielded arguably their best possible candidate, former two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen, who left office with very favorable ratings and a strong record. But, even after matching Blackburn in spending, the former governor fell 55-44 percent in the general election. The result will likely dampen Democratic prospects for 2020.

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Senate 2020: The Second Tier – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 17, 2018 — Friday, we covered the first part of the group of under-the-radar Senate races that could develop in 2020, but where current action is noteworthy.

The eight top-tier competitive states of Alabama (Sen. Doug Jones), Arizona (special election), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner), Georgia (Sen. David Purdue), Iowa (Sen. Joni Ernst), Maine (Sen. Susan Collins), New Hampshire (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis) will be discussed repeatedly throughout the coming election cycle.

Yesterday’s column, however, looked at Kansas (Sen. Pat Roberts), Kentucky (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), Minnesota (Sen. Tina Smith), Mississippi (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith), and Montana (Sen. Steve Daines). Today, we cover the latest news in Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

• OREGON: Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D) seat comes before the voters in 2020, but the two-term incumbent may have other plans. Sen. Merkley confirms that he is considering entering the presidential campaign and is in the process of attempting to convince legislators to change state law to allow him to simultaneously run for president and the US Senate.
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