By Jim Ellis
July 19, 2021 — The Fox News website ran a story late last week saying that there remain five in-cycle US senators who have not yet revealed their political plans for 2022. Below is a review of those senators’ political situations and clues that could provide a glimpse whether they are headed toward re-election or retirement.
The best hints will be forthcoming in a matter of days as the second quarter campaign financial disclosure reports will be released shortly on the Federal Election Commission website. Last Thursday was the deadline for filing the reports for the period covering April 1 through June 30.
The five senators, listed alphabetically by state are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Re-elected: 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 65
Victory Margin 2016: 44.4 – 29.2%
Announced Major Opponents:
• Karl Speights (R) – Retired Air Force officer
• Kelly Tshibaka (R) – Former AK Administration Commissioner
It is assumed that Sen. Murkowski will run for re-election, though her return path to Washington may be a difficult one to traverse. Last night, her campaign spokesperson stated that the Senator’s second quarter disclosure report would show $1.15 million raised for the quarter with $2.3 million cash-on-hand. These are financial numbers that suggest she will seek re-election.
Alaska has changed its nominating system and will be the first state to adopt a “top four” primary procedure. Similar to California, Louisiana, and Washington that use the jungle primary format to send the top two candidates to the general election, Alaska will instead advance the top four from the slate primary. The change virtually ensures that Sen. Murkowski will not again lose the Republican primary as she did in the 2010 election. In that year, she was forced to run a highly efficient general election write-in operation to win her second full term.
Early polling numbers find Sen. Murkowski with very poor favorability numbers among Republicans and running a distant third behind Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is already the state Republican Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Dr. Al Gross (D), the 2020 Senate nominee, has not yet committed to running again, but he, too, runs ahead of the Senator in the previously released surveys.
While the top four system guarantees Sen. Murkowski will secure a ballot position for the general election, winning her re-election is in doubt.
First Elected: 1980
Re-elected: 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 89
Victory Margin 2016: 60.1 – 35.7%
Announced Major Opponents:
• Jim Carlin (R) – State Senator; former State Representative
• Glenn Hurst (D) – Minden City Councilman; Physician
• Dave Muhlbauer (D) – Ex-Crawford County Commissioner; Farmer
Last week Sen. Grassley stated that he would make his political plan public before Nov. 1. Despite his advanced age, it is presumed in all sectors now that Sen. Grassley will seek re-election. He has filed a 2022 campaign committee with the FEC, has a semi-updated website, and it will be interesting to see how active his fundraising became in the second quarter. His March 31 report revealed a cash-on-hand figure of $2.04 million to begin the re-election cycle.