Latest Senate News – Part I

By Jim Ellis

May 27, 2021 — Incumbents, candidates, and potential candidates are making political moves in some key upcoming 2022 Senate races, which makes now a good time to review the latest happenings. Today we look at the significant developing races alphabetically from Alabama through Nevada. Tomorrow, we cover the remainder.

• Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby (R) is retiring, and the early Republican primary battle looks to be a match between Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), armed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, and ex-US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard who is promising to personally spend $5 million on her campaign.

No Democrat has yet come forward to declare a candidacy. US Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), the lone Democratic member of the congressional delegation, has already said she that will seek re-election next year and not run statewide.

• Arizona: Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who won the 2020 special election, must stand for a full six-year term in this election cycle. At this point, four Republicans are in the mix. Term-limited Attorney General Mark Brnovich appears poised to enter the race. Venture capitalist Blake Masters, with presumed major backing from billionaire donor Peter Thiel, is likely to run, as is retired Air Force Major General Michael McGuire. Solar energy company executive Jim Lamon has already announced his candidacy.

This will be a top-tier 2022 Senate campaign and is considered a must-win for both parties.

• Florida: The Sunshine State has been drawing a great deal of political media attention of late, all concerning House members looking to run statewide. It now appears set that Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) is in the governor’s race, while Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) seeks re-election, and Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) appears set to announce her challenge against two-term Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The Florida Senate race will be competitive because campaigns in this state are always close and Rep. Demings will be a strong opponent. Incumbent Sen. Rubio, however, begins with a clear advantage.

• Georgia: Like Sen. Kelly in Arizona, freshman Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won the special 2020 election to serve the balance of an unexpired term. He, too, must stand for a full six-year term next year.

At this point, now that former Rep. Doug Collins says he won’t run, most of the attention centers around former Georgia football legend Herschel Walker (R) and whether he will return from Texas to challenge Sen. Warnock. Walker promises a decision by summer.

If the former football star chooses to pass, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler/Savannah) says he will run. Banking executive Latham Saddler and construction company owner Kelvin King are the announced GOP candidates. The list of potential Republican candidates is long with state House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) being the latest to discuss the race with national GOP leaders.

This is another top-tier campaign viewed as a must-win for both parties. It is likely whichever side wins the Georgia race will also control the next Senate majority.

• Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) will be 89 years old at the next election, yet most observers believe he will seek an eighth term in 2022. Grassley says he will make a decision about the next election “sometime later in the year.” This has frozen much of the potential candidate field. In fact, the only announced Democratic Senate candidate is former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer (D), who lost his last election. Iowa always has competitive potential.

• Kentucky: Sen. Rand Paul (R) will be on the ballot for a third term. At this point, former state Rep. Charles Booker (D), who surprised Kentucky politicos with his competitive bid against eventual 2020 Senate nominee Amy McGrath, is an announced candidate.

Jim Gray, the former Lexington-Fayette Mayor who challenged Sen. Paul in 2016 but fared poorly against him, is mentioned as another potential Democratic contender. He currently serves as Kentucky’s Transportation Secretary in Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) administration.

At this point, Sen. Paul is a decided favorite for re-election.

• Missouri: Republicans holding the seat from which Sen. Roy Blunt (R) is retiring should be relatively easy considering the state’s recent voting history. The re-emergence of scandal-tainted resigned Gov. Eric Greitens (R), however, gives the Democrats an opening if he becomes the Republican nominee. Currently opposing Greitens is GOP Attorney General Eric Schmitt and attorney Mark McCloskey. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) is expected to soon enter the primary contest. Rep. Billy Long (R-Springfield) is another potential contender.

Several Democrats have announced their candidacies, but former St. Louis area state Sen. Scott Sifton is clearly the most credible to date. Former Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is said to be contemplating his own entry into the race.

Should anyone but Greitens win the Republican nomination, the seat should be secure for the GOP. If Greitens emerges with a plurality victory from a crowded field, his only victory scenario, this seat moves way up on the Democratic target list.

• Nevada: Most of the 2022 political talk centers around challenges to Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), but first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) will also face a credible opponent. Former Attorney General and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt (R) appears to be drawing the most attention in GOP circles.

Elections typically run very close in Nevada, but Democrats have routinely prevailed. Sen. Cortez Masto begins her re-election bid as a clear favorite but the map is such that the national GOP must compete here regardless of who becomes the party nominee.

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