Senate To “Develop” Races

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 21, 2019
— Winding down 2018 allows us an opportunity to complete the coming Senate political picture.

As previously covered, the states comprising the early top tier competitive campaigns already include Alabama (Sen. Doug Jones), Arizona special (Senator-Designate Martha McSally), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner), Georgia (Sen. David Perdue), Iowa (Sen. Joni Ernst), Maine (Sen. Susan Collins), Mississippi (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis).

Races that could develop or where the incumbent at least has a potential opponent being mentioned are: Kansas (Sen. Pat Roberts), Kentucky (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), Minnesota (Sen. Tina Smith), New Hampshire (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen), Tennessee (Open: Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring), and Texas (Sen. John Cornyn).

Primary challenges are being speculated upon in Massachusetts (Sen. Ed Markey) and South Carolina (Sen. Lindsey Graham).

Minor candidates are surfacing in Arkansas (Sen. Tom Cotton), Nebraska (Sen. Ben Sasse), and New Jersey (Sen. Cory Booker), but none are expected to develop into major challenges.

So far, the incumbents from the remaining states do not even have potential opponents being cited at this early point in time:

  • Alaska (Sen. Dan Sullivan)
  • Delaware (Sen. Chris Coons)
  • Idaho (Sen. Jim Risch)
  • Illinois (Sen. Dick Durbin)
  • Michigan (Sen. Gary Peters)
  • Montana (Sen. Steve Daines)
  • New Mexico (Sen. Tom Udall)
  • Oklahoma (Sen. Jim Inhofe)
  • Oregon (Sen. Jeff Merkley)
  • Rhode Island (Sen. Jack Reed)
  • South Dakota (Sen. Mike Rounds)
  • Virginia (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • West Virginia (Sen. Shelley Moore Capito)
  • Wyoming (Sen. Mike Enzi)

From this group, Democratic leaders were heavily pursuing Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to challenge Sen. Daines, but the governor has repeatedly said he will not. Instead, Bullock may soon join the presidential race.

Sen. Merkley has been attempting to convince Oregon lawmakers and the governor to change state law to allow individuals to simultaneously run for more than one office — so he can run for both president and re-election — but it does not appear that Beaver State officials are open to such a maneuver. Therefore, Sen. Merkley will be forced to make a choice at some point in the cycle. The most likely scenario is for him to enter the early primaries but exit the presidential race before he has to file for re-election in mid-May under Oregon state election law.

On the other hand, New Jersey state officials have changed the law in that state, and Sen. Booker will be able to simultaneously run for president and re-election.

Retirement rumors have circled around Sens. Durbin (IL), Roberts (KS), Inhofe (OK), and Enzi (WY), but at this point, the only member making public his plans not to seek re-election is Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander.

The following 16 states do not have a Senate race in 2020:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

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