Lets Talk About The Senate Races
In order for Biden to sign good bills into law, there needs to be a Democratic Congress to put those bills on his desk. After all of our hard work in 2018 (and our continuing hard work again this year!), we flipped the House of Representatives.
Which leaves us with the task this year of taking the Senate away from Mitch McConnell. Luckily, there are a number of races where we stand an excellent chance of doing just such a thing.
For those interested in getting involved immediately, you can proceed directly to our Volunteer Hub at: www.evanstondems.com/map
Just below our list of MAP-endorsed candidates, you will find three maps. Select the Senate map, click on a state where you want to get involved, and start making some calls!
For those who want a detailed breakdown, let’s talk about some of the more interesting races on the board this year. This will be a long analysis, but hopefully informative!:
Where are we now?
In order for us to win the Senate, we need to flip a total of three seats for 50, (where Vice President Harris is the tiebreaker) or 51 seats (for an outright majority). Obviously, every seat we can gain over this number makes it more likely that we will keep the Senate in 2022, so let’s go for as many opportunities as we can!
Holding what we have
As much as I would like to tell you that every Democrat is safe in their seat, that’s unfortunately not the case. We have two incumbents whose re-elections are not guaranteed.
Doug Jones, who famously flipped the Alabama Senate seat in 2017, will have an incredibly difficult time keeping his seat this year. While Alabama Republicans stayed home rather than vote for Roy Moore in 2017, let’s not kid ourselves that they will turn out in droves to vote for Trump this year. You can see clearly by looking at the last three statewide elections in Alabama (2018 Governor’s race, 2017 special election, and 2016 Presidential election) that the number of Democrats in the state remains fairly constant while the number of Republicans took a drastic dive due to Roy Moore’s scandals. Tommy Tuberville, the Republican challenger, is a college football coach with no political experience, so he may find a way to fumble his first race, but this will definitely be an unbelievably difficult hold for us this year. Volunteer for Doug Jones here
In brighter news, Senator Gary Peters, who might have once been in a position to lose his seat, is looking safer and safer every day. Michigan was one of the surprising losses in 2016, but we’ve absolutely made recovering it a priority this year. In 2018, we won the Governor’s seat back, and Republican John James hasn’t been ahead in a poll in months. Still, we learned the danger of complacency in 2016, and phonebanking for Peters will have the secondary effect of driving up turnout for Biden in Michigan as well. Volunteer for Gary Peters here
Key Flips – the likeliest candidates
Of course, keeping all of our current seats only keeps us at 47. So let’s look at those pickup opportunities!
First up is Mark Kelly, who is challenging Senator Martha McSally for the seat in Arizona. He is, to use the technical term, absolutely crushing it. With unbelievable fundraising numbers and an embarrassingly bad opponent, Arizona looks like our best bet for a pickup. Martha McSally, if you will remember, lost the 2018 Senate race to Kyrsten Sinema before being appointed to the vacancy left by resigning Senator Kyl. She will have the rare distinction of causing two consecutive losses for her party in the US Senate. Thanks, Martha! Volunteer for Mark Kelly here
In almost as enviable a position as Mark, we have John Hickenlooper in Colorado. The former Governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper is a well-known and well-liked figure in the state. Even better, Colorado has been getting bluer and bluer in every race for the last four cycles, and has shown no sign of stopping. While this state used to be considered a swing state, it’s now solidly blue at the Presidential level, and is ready to jettison its last statewide Republican. Volunteer for John Hickenlooper here
Susan Collins has had a precarious position in Maine, but the illusion of her as a moderate Republican is gone, and Sara Gideon is ready and willing to step in and oust her. After the Kavanaugh vote, a four million dollar fund was raised to defeat her, so Gideon now enjoys one of the largest warchests of the year. She’s Speaker of the House in Maine, so she’s very well known and well-liked in the state. Nevertheless, Gideon and Collins are polling neck-and-neck, making this race a real tossup. Volunteer for Sara Gideon here
Like Virginia before it, North Carolina is a rapidly blue-ing state, and Cal Cunningham is ready to take it to the next step. Though we’ve won statewide races before (most recently the Governorship), North Carolina remains a tough nut to crack. Thom Tillis flipped the Senate seat when he was elected in 2014, and even though we won the state in the 2008 Presidential election, it reverted back to the Republicans in 2012 and 2016. North Carolina could swing either way this year. Volunteer for Cal Cunningham here
Key Flips – beyond the big four
If we flip all four of the races listed above, we’ve reached the magic 50. But that’s not good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be for you, either. Let’s look a little deeper.
Theresa Greenfield is running in Iowa to replace first-term Senator Joni Ernst, and is absolutely proving that Iowa is one of the most elastic states in the Country. While it usually votes red in the Presidential election, we hold three of the four Congressional seats, and we only lost the 2018 Governor’s race by 3%. Ernst is walking the same tightrope as a lot of other Republicans in trying to keep her distance from Trump while not alienating his base, and Greenfield is taking full advantage of Trump’s relative unpopularity while also keeping focus on local issues. If we want to reach beyond 50 seats, we will need Iowa to do it. Volunteer for Theresa Greenfield here
Montana Governor Steve Bullock was reluctant to enter the race, hoping instead that his presidential run would go further than it did. Now that he’s in the race for Senate, however, he’s demonstrating exactly why he was able to win the Governorship of such a red state so many times, and has single handedly put Montana on the map of potential flips. Republicans were counting on this remaining an easy hold, but now incumbent Senator Steve Daines is fighting for his life. Volunteer for Steve Bullock here
There’s an unusual double-feature in Georgia this year, so let’s take them one at a time. Jon Ossoff, who made news as the best fundraiser in Congressional history in his 2017 special election, is now taking on David Perdue in the regular Senate election this year. Boosted by the voter registration efforts of local giants such as Stacy Abrams, and taking full advantage of the rapidly blue-ing of the state and growth of the suburban Atlanta area, Ossoff is quickly catching up to Perdue. Volunteer for Jon Ossoff here
The Georgia special election, on the other hand, is currently a free-for-all. Atlanta minister Raphael Warnock has racked up an impressive number of endorsements both locally and nationally, while Matt Lieberman is the only other Democrat polling above single digits. Meanwhile, incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler is plagued by her insider-trading-from-COVID scandal, and stands a good chance of losing her seat. Unfortunately, she may lose her seat to Congressman Chris Collins, one of the most fervent Trump supporters in the House. This election will feature all four candidates on the ballot at once, with the top two facing off against each other in December. If we play our cards right, Warnock will face off against one of the Republicans, but there’s a very real possibility of being locked out of the runoff, with Loeffler and Collins moving on to December. Volunteer for Raphael Warnock here
The stretch goals
After the big four key flips, and four more potential flips, we are left with a lot of races still on the map that show a lot of promise. These races are not for the faint of heart, as every single one of them is going to be a big lift for those courageous enough to take on the challenge.
If North Carolina today is where Virginia was one decade ago, South Carolina today is where Virginia was two decades ago. Luckily, we have Jaime Harrison to take on the challenge of shifting the state out of the ‘Ruby Red’ category. A schoolteacher and former aide to Jim Clyburn, Harrison is challenging Senator Lindsey Graham for the seat he’s held since 2003. While Lindsey Graham appears unusually vulnerable this cycle, South Carolina’s status as a solid red state may be insurmountable. Volunteer for Jaime Harrison here
Beto O’Rourke’s incredible challenge against Ted Cruz in 2018 changed the state of Texas forever. This year, MJ Hegar is trying to improve upon his near-success with her own challenge against incumbent Senator John Cornyn. Like South Carolina and Georgia, Texas is rapidly blue-ifying, and in addition to the Senate race, we stand a good chance of picking up enough legislative seats to flip the State House! Unfortunately for MJ, Cornyn is not nearly as controversial a figure as Cruz was, and appears to be much less vulnerable. Still, there’s time for the race to shift in our favor. Volunteer for MJ Hegar here
Alaska might sound like an unusual target for a pickup, but Alaska is an unusual state. Independent candidate Al Gross is running to flip the seat from Republican Dan Sullivan. Like Lisa Murkowski before him, Gross is trying to win an Alaska Senate seat without a party label, though he has been endorsed by the Alaska Democratic Party (there is no official Democratic candidate in the race this year), and would join Angus King and Bernie Sanders in the Senate as an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. This is the sleeper race of the cycle, and the only reason it isn’t listed one category higher is because there hasn’t been enough polling – and the polling that we do have is too filled with undecideds to get a clear picture of what’s happening. Volunteer for Al Gross here
Mitch McConnell is the second most dangerous man in America, and the reason there’s so much focus on the Senate this year. Amy McGrath is our challenger in Kentucky this cycle, and has perhaps the steepest challenge of any candidate we’ve discussed so far. McConnell has won this seat for the last six cycles – since 1986. Like the Al Gross race, this one may be miscategorized, but it’s only McGrath’s outstanding fundraising that keeps it from dropping lower. Though she spent half of her warchest to get through the primary, she is still sitting on $20 million. McConnell is favored to win, but he’s going to spend a lot of money defending himself in doing so – and keeping McConnell busy defending himself may be the edge we need across the rest of the map. Volunteer for Amy McGrath here
In December of 2018, Republican State Representative Barbara Bollier announced her resignation from the Republican Party, citing Medicaid expansion and school funding as two issues that motivated her change of affiliation. Now, she’s the Democratic Senate candidate in Kansas. While Kansas is not usually what you think of as a swing seat, we did flip the Governorship in 2018, due to the strength of our candidate Laura Kelly and the incredibly weak candidate Kris Kobach that the Republicans put forward. Bollier is very popular in the state, and the only thing keeping this race from moving up a spot is the fact that Kris Koback lost the Republican primary. Roger Marshall will not be nearly so toxic, though the 2018 victory shows us that the state is not impossible. Volunteer for Barbara Bollier here
The Guaranteed States
It’s true that nothing is guaranteed, but the unfortunate reality is that some states are just too red for any candidate to overcome. Luckily for us, the inverse is also true – and this year, there are more guaranteed Blue states than Red states.
- Dick Durbin is running to keep his seat in Illinois. Republican challenger Mark Curran stands little chance, though third-party candidate Willie Wilson may cause some problems if he reaches 5% – allowing him to run spoiler candidates in any election in the state under the “Willie Wilson Party” banner in future elections.
- Cory Booker is running to keep his seat in New Jersey
- Jack Reed is running to keep his seat in Rhode Island
- Jeanne Shaheen is running to keep her seat in New Hampshire
- Jeff Merkley is running for re-election in Oregon
- Ben Ray-Lujan is running for the open seat in New Mexico
- Tina Smith is running in Minnesota after being appointed to the seat in January 2018 and winning the special election to keep the seat in November 2018
- Mark Warner is running for re-election in Virginia
- Chris Coons is being challenged in the Delaware Democratic primary by Jessica Scarane regardless of who wins the primary, Delaware is safe blue
- Edward Markey is facing a primary challenge from Joe Kennedy in Massachusetts, which is also safe no matter which candidate wins.
The Democratic challengers to safe Republicans
- Paula Jean Swearingen is challenging incumbent Shelly Moore Capito in West Virginia
- Marquita Bradshaw had a surprise victory in the Tennessee primary, and is running for the vacant seat left by the retiring Lamar Alexander. Bill Hagerty is the Republican candidate.
- Mike Espy is challenging Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi
- Paulette Jordan is challenging Jim Risch in Idaho
- Dan Ahlers is challenging Mike Rounds in South Dakota
- Chris Janicek is challenging Ben Sasse in Nebraska
- Merva Ben-David is running for the open seat in Wyoming against Cynthis Lummis
- Abby Broyles is challenging Jim Inhofe in Oklahoma
- Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana will face off against five Democratic candidates in the November 3rd election, and will go on to face one of them in a runoff if nobody gets over 50% of the vote.
- Incumbent Republican Senator Tom Cotton is unopposed this year, as Democrat Josh Mahony dropped out after winning the Democratic Primary unopposed, too late for the state party to put another name on the ballot.
So there you have it. An exhaustive list of every Senate race being held this year. Hopefully it wasn’t too exhausting, because what I need you to do now is find somebody to volunteer for! I’ve included helpful links to the volunteer signup pages for each of the competitive candidates, and I encourage you to forward this list (or at least the map page) to anyone and everyone who wants to help us flip the Senate this year.
Thank you for reading this marathon email!
Let’s get to work!
-Democratic Party of Evanston Vice President