By Jim Ellis
April 2, 2018 — Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.
In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:
Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.
California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).
Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.
Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.
Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.
Missouri: Candidate filing closed in the Show Me State earlier in the week, and the anticipated contest between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) will become a reality.
Nevada: Perennial Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian backing away from his Republican primary challenge to Sen. Dean Heller means the general election will feature the one-term incumbent and freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson).
New Jersey: With Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D) legal troubles behind him, he again becomes a heavy favorite for re-election. Republican former pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin (R), however, has the financial resources to make a campaign interesting even in expensive New Jersey.
North Dakota: First, at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) announced that he would not challenge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), but then he quickly reversed course. Now, the general election battle between the two ND political heavyweights is on.
Ohio: The Buckeye State primary occurs on May 8, and the Republican voters are likely to award Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) with the party nomination. He will then challenge two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in a race that features competitive underpinnings.
Pennsylvania: The May 15 primary is highly likely to send Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) into the general election to oppose two-term Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D). A new poll gives Sen. Casey an 18-point lead, but the end result figures to be much closer.
Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker’s (R) decision to retire would in most circumstances yield a competitive primary. No so in 2018, it appears, for either party. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen is positioned to lock down the Democratic primary, and it appears that US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) is poised to follow suit on the Republican side. The resulting general election will be fought on very conservative turf since the electorate has moved even further right since Gov. Bredesen left office.
Texas: The Lone Star State general election contest is now certain, as both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) both won their respective party nominations in early March without facing run-off elections.
Utah: The nominating conventions and subsequent primaries are mere formalities. The Utah general election will feature former Republican presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney against Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D).