Senate Candidate Review

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 25, 2017 — After Friday’s review of the open House races, today we update the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Tomorrow, we will complete the remaining 17 states.

In contrast to the House where 26 regular cycle seats are open, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

ARIZONA — TOSS UP
Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
Kelli Ward (R) – former State Senator
Jeff DeWit (R) – State Treasurer
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative
State Rep. Randy Friese (D) – Physician; Tucson area state legislator
• Sen. Flake is in trouble in the Republican primary largely due to his personal feud with President Trump. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) waits in the wings. Should she enter the race, there is a strong chance the Democrats coalesce behind her.

CALIFORNIA — SAFE D
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)
State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Indications are suggesting that Sen. Feinstein, now 84 years old, will seek re-election. She should have little in the way of opposition, but state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) made public statements about challenging the senator after the latter made a favorable comment about President Trump. Unlikely such a challenge will actually happen, however.

CONNECTICUT — SAFE D
Sen. Chris Murphy (D)
Ann-Marie Adams (D) – Journalist
State Sen. Tony Hwang (R) – Fairfield area state legislator
• Sen. Murphy wins in a walk.

DELAWARE — SAFE D
Sen. Tom Carper (D)
Chuck Boyce (R) – Business consultant
• Sen. Carper flirted with retirement but will run again. He will easily secure a fourth term.

FLORIDA — POTENTIAL TOSS-UP
Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
Gov. Rick Scott (R)
• Term-limited Gov. Scott, now enjoying favorable approval ratings, can take his time about announcing for the Senate. There is little doubt that he will challenge Sen. Nelson. It is only a question of when.

HAWAII — SAFE D
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D)
• The first-term incumbent, now undergoing cancer treatment, is unlikely to be seriously opposed for re-election now that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) has taken herself out of the running.

INDIANA — TOSS-UP
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)
Rep. Todd Rokita (R)
Rep. Luke Messer (R)
St. Rep. Mike Braun (R) – Jasper area state legislator
Terry Henderson (R) – Businessman
Mark Hurt (R) – Attorney
• The Indiana race will probably feature the most competitive Republican primary in the country. The eventual winner, however, will likely battle first-term Sen. Donnelly to a photo finish in November of 2018.

MAINE — SAFE I
Sen. Angus King (I)
Cynthia Dill (D) – former state Senator; ex-state Representative
Eric Brakey (R) – state Senator
• It is unlikely Democrats will file a candidate here, making Sen. King the de facto Democratic nominee. He should have little trouble winning a second term.

MARYLAND — SAFE D

Sen. Ben Cardin (D)
Sam Faddis (R) – Retired CIA officer
David Pae (R) – Marine Corps veteran
• No troubles for Sen. Cardin.

MASSACHUSETTS — SAFE D
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D)
St. Rep. Geoff Diehl (R) – Norwell area legislator; businessman
John Kingston (R) – Businessman; attorney
Gabriel Gomez (R) – Private Equity Investor; former Senate nominee
• Sen. Warren is on the ballot next year, which will likely be a precursor to a 2020 presidential run. She has risk in that state Rep. Diehl has the ability to run an aggressive campaign and could develop a national fundraising organization. This race has obvious national implications.

MICHIGAN — LIKELY D
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)
John James (R) – Detroit area factory owner; former veteran
Bob Young (R) – retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice
Sandy Pensler (R) – venture capitalist
Randy Richardville (R) – former state Senate Majority Leader
Robert Ritchie (R) – muscisian; singer; known as Kid Rock
Rep. Fred Upton (R) – St. Joseph area Congressman
• A large number of potential candidates are looking at the race. A good chance exists that the Kid Rock senatorial effort will turn out to be a publicity stunt.

MINNESOTA — SAFE D
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)
State Rep. Jim Newberger (R) – Becker area state legislator; paramedic
• Sen. Klobuchar is another Democrat whose name is being mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. Her re-election for a third term in the Senate is a lock, however.

MISSISSIPPI — SAFE R
Sen. Roger Wicker (R)
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) – Ellisville area legislator; 2014 Senate candidate
Jansen Bohren (D) – Bernie Sanders campaign activist
• Sen. Wicker’s potential risk could be in the Republican primary. Recently, less talk about state Sen. McDaniel, who almost upset Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary, is surfacing regarding a primary challenge.

MISSOURI — TOSS-UP
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)
St. Rep. Paul Curtman (R) – Pacific area legislator; Financial advisor
Tony Monetti (R) – Airport executive director
Carl Edwards (R) – retired NASCAR driver
Attorney General Josh Hawley (R)
• Attorney General Hawley has filed a Senate exploratory committee, and will shortly make a final decision about entering the challenge race against two-term Sen. McCaskill. Indications are that he will run. This could become the top challenger Senate campaign in the country.

MONTANA — LEAN D
Sen. Jon Tester (D)
State Sen. Al Olszewski (R) – Flathead Valley legislator; surgeon
Matt Rosendale (R) – State Auditor
Judge Russell Fagg (R) – retiring district judge
• Sen. Tester is a strong fit for the state, and it remains to be seen if any of the Republican hopefuls, particularly state auditor Rosendale, can develop a strong enough campaign to seriously threaten the two-term incumbent.

NEBRASKA — SAFE R
Sen. Deb Fischer (R)
Jane Raybould (D) – Lincoln City Councilmember; ex-Lancaster County Commissioner
• Sen. Fischer is poised to win a landslide re-election.

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