By Jim Ellis — Monday, Jan. 16, 2023
SenateRetirements: Six Possible — Late last week, Fox News Online ran a story suggesting that six more Democratic senators may opt for retirement in 2024 following the lead of Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), who announced last week that she will not seek a fifth term.
In addition to Sen. Stabenow’s retirement, California Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) declared her Senate candidacy even though incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has yet to disclose her own re-election plans.
With this backdrop, the six senators listed below are (in order of most likely to retire to least):
- Dianne Feinstein (CA): It is presumed that Sen. Feinstein, who will turn 91 years of age before the next election, will retire. Some are expressing their belief that Rep. Porter is disrespecting Sen. Feinstein’s long career – elected in 1992, she has served longer than any sitting Democratic member – and is potentially forcing the senator’s hand to make an announcement. With some in the leadership urging her to resign early due to health constraints, it appears evident that she will not seek re-election.
- Joe Manchin (WV): With faltering job approval numbers and from a state that is now becoming ruby red politically, speculation has been out there for some time that Sen. Manchin may not seek re-election or could instead attempt to regain his former position as governor.
Already, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) has announced that he will challenge Sen. Manchin next year. Gov. Jim Justice (R), who will be term-limited in 2024 and has strong approval numbers, has not closed the door regarding running for the Senate. Polling suggests that both Gov. Justice and Rep. Mooney would begin a race against Sen. Manchin with a definitive advantage.
- Bob Casey, Jr. (PA): Last week Sen. Casey announced that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will have surgery in the coming months. He said his prognosis for a full recovery is excellent and plans on seeking re-election. If there is a downturn in his health, however, there is certainly a chance that his campaign plans could be forced to change. For now, Sen. Casey looks to be a sure bet to run for a third term, but unfortunately his precarious health situation could be an impediment to his quest.
- Jon Tester (MT): Sen. Tester is beginning to appear on more potential retirement lists, as he did in the Fox News story. Montana, like West Virginia, is another state that is turning solidly Republican making Sen. Tester’s re-election less than a sure thing.
The last time he was on the ballot (2018) he defeated current US Congressman Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) by only a 50-47 percent margin in a state that has only grown more conservative since that time. In the 2020 election, Republican candidates won all eight of Montana’s statewide elections with victory margins between nine and 19 percentage points. During the same period, Sen. Tester’s voting record has moved decidedly to the left where he can no longer be considered a centrist incumbent.
Additionally, Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines, is now chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), thus guaranteeing that Montana will be a top national GOP target with heavy funding to support the party’s eventual nominee. Therefore, with obvious lucrative opportunities available to Sen. Tester in the private sector, he might decide his future is more appealing on the outside of elective politics than fighting what will likely be a more difficult re-election campaign than he has before experienced.
- Tim Kaine (VA): Sen. Kaine, the Democrats’ 2016 vice presidential nominee and former Virginia governor, stands for a third term in 2024. The Fox analysis placed Sen. Kaine on the potential retirement list with the reasoning that Virginia could be moving more to the right, thus suggesting the senator might face a more difficult re-election campaign.
Such an analysis is incorrect. Despite Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 Governor’s race – a two-point win where the last three weeks of the campaign turned decidedly his way under circumstances that are unlikely to be repeated — the state has clearly established itself as a reliable Democratic bastion. Expect Sen. Kaine to run again and face relatively weak opposition. He will likely romp to a decisive re-election victory.
- Tammy Baldwin (WI): Sen. Baldwin was placed on the potential retirement list for a reason similar to Sen. Kaine being included. The Fox News analysis cited Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R) tight victory — 50.4 percent with a 26,728-vote margin of 2.65 million ballots cast — as an indication that the state is becoming more favorable to Republicans.
This is the first time there has been a hint that Sen. Baldwin is a retirement possibility, and a close 2020 Senate race at the same time a Democratic governor was being re-elected should not be indicative of any future voting trend in a state that either party can win. There is little current reason to think that 60-year-old Sen. Baldwin would retire. Therefore, fully expect her to be on the ballot next year competitively vying for a third term.