On November 3, 2020, while everyone will be clamoring to vote for president, 35 states will also be voting for senators. If elected, or re-elected, on that night, they will serve a six year term from January 2021 to January 2027. It’s crazy to think that we’re making decisions that will see us into January 2027, isn’t it?
As you likely know, Republicans currently control the Senate. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate Majority Leader, and Republicans hold 53 seats, to the Democrats 45. Two Senators are Independent. The Senate breaks their elections up into Class 1, 2, 3. Right now, Class 1 senators have a term that ends in 2025 (elected in November 2018). Class 2 senators have a term that ends in 2021 (and hence are being elected in November 2020). Class 3 senators have a term that ends in 2023, having been elected in November 2016. So, in 2020, the 33 class 2 senators are up for election, along with two special elections being held to replace senators that either passed away (McCain) or resigned (Isakson).
The big question is, with Democrats aiming to take the White House in 2020, will they also try to take the Senate? 23 Republican seats are up, while only 12 Democrat seats are up, but you never know how things are going to shake out these days. Currently, five senators are retiring and at least five have not announced whether they will seek re-election or not.
Let’s breakdown which senators are up for re-election, whether they are running for another term, who is running against them, and what is expected of the race.
Remember when Doug Jones, a Democrat, beat Roy Moore to replace Jeff Sessions? It feels like ages ago, but now, in 2020, Jones is running to keep his seat. He was a long shot to win until the allegations against Moore came out, so will he be able to keep his seat in the red state? Among opposition Republicans, there’s Moore (again) as well as the state’s Secretary of State, a former Auburn football coach and sitting Congressman Bradley Byrne.
Republican Dan Sullivan is running for a second term in the U.S. Senate. Alaska is rarely a “battleground” state, but he will face Democratic competition from the incumbent he defeated in 2014, the mayor of the state’s capital, and others.
After John McCain passed away in 2018, the governor of Arizona appointed Jon Kyl to fill the seat. Then, Kyl resigned and the governor appointed Martha McSally, who actually lost the race for the state’s other seat in 2018 to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. McSally will run for a full-term in McCain’s seat and face off against Democratic candidate, former astronaut, and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly. It’ll be an interesting race to watch.
Republican Tom Cotton was first elected in 2014, and will seek a second term in 2020. He’s pretty popular and will face Democratic competition from a former congressional nominee, but it doesn’t look like it’s shaping up to be too contentious of a race.
Republican Cory Gardner is trying to win a second term, but there are lots of Democrats that would love to stop him in his tracks. Some of the declared candidates so far include the former governor and presidential candidate, John Hickenlooper, former state legislators, and local activists.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons is seeking a second full term in Delaware. He previously won a special election to replace Joe Biden after Biden became vice-president. There are no declared Republican challengers as of yet.
Republican David Perdue is seeking a second term, but after how many eyes were on Georgia in 2018, it will be another interesting year for the state. Jon Ossoff, who famously spent a lot of money on a congressional campaign he lost, has announced that he is running, along with some state and local politicians. This election will be for a full six-year term.
Georgia’s other senator, Johnny Isakson, announced in 2019 that he would be retiring early due to health reasons. The governor of Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp, will appoint someone to hold Isakson’s seat from his resignation, expected in late 2019, until the special election in 2020. While that replacement hasn’t been announced yet, it’s possible they’ll decide to run for the position themselves and keep the seat until 2022, when it is up again. While Stacey Abrams swears she isn’t running, lots of local politicians, congressional representatives, former legislators, and even Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue are being thrown around as potential candidates.
Another easy keep for Republicans, Republican Jim Risch is seeking another term. He’s being challenged by a Democratic businesswoman, Nancy Harris, but is expected to win.
In Illinois, Democratic minority whip, and four-term senator, Dick Durbin, is seeking another term. He won’t have a primary challenger, but it’s certain that Republicans would love to attempt to unseat him. There are lots of potential Republican candidates out there, including former gubernatorial candidates and governors, a female Navy veteran, and former state attorney general candidate Erika Harold.
Republican Joni Ernst is seeking a second term. A few Democratic candidates have expressed their interest, including a real estate broker and a divorce attorney. On a really cool note, at this time all the expressed candidates are women, and Ernst was the first female elected to represent Iowa in the Senate.
Kansas’s longtime Republican senator, Pat Roberts, is retiring, so Kansas is an open field this year. Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state, is seeking the Republican nomination, and among the potential democrats there are former U.S. attorneys and state legislators. The state is likely to stay red, but it’ll be interesting who fills Roberts’ shoes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for re-election in 2020, and while it’s hard to imagine him losing, his Democrat challengers will do their best to put up a good fight. Amy McGrath, a veteran who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018 is challenging him, and it’s possible that if Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear doesn’t win that race in 2019, he will pivot to run for Senate.
In Louisiana, Republican Bill Cassidy is running for a second term. Not much has happened on the electoral front though, so while it’s likely that Cassidy will face a Democratic opponent, his seat is considered safe.
Long-time incumbent Republican Susan Collins is expected to run for a fifth term, though Democrats would love to boot her out over her support for Kavanaugh in 2018. There are a few Democrats that might run, including a former gubernatorial candidate and a sitting congresswoman.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey is seeking a second full term. He was first elected to the Senate to replace John Kerry when he became Secretary of State. He will be primaried by rising Democratic star Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Seeking the Republican nomination is a scientist who previously ran as an independent in 2018. The state is likely to stay blue.
One-term Democrat Sen. Gary Peters is seeking another six years in the Senate. He is being challenged by Republican John James, who unsuccessfully ran for the state’s other Senate seat in 2018. It will be an interesting race to watch, because while Peters is favored, James is a popular candidate with many.
Remember Al Franken? Seems like ages ago, right? Democrat Tina Smith was appointed to fill in for Franken when he resigned, and she ultimately won an election to finish out his term. Now, she is being challenged by former Republican congressman Jason Lewis. Smith is expected to keep her seat.
After serving seven six-year terms in the Senate, Republican Thad Cochran resigned in 2018. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed as his replacement and won the special election to keep the seat until January 2021. She’s seeking a full term this cycle. It is likely that she will be challenged by Democrat Mike Espy, who ran in 2018 and formerly served as the Secretary of Agriculture. The seat is considered safe for Republicans.
Republican Sen. Steve Daines is seeking a second full term in a race that is likely to be pretty calm. He will likely face a challenge from a local Democrat politician, though Governor Steve Bullock is not expected to enter the race as he continues to run for president.
In Nebraska, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is running for a second term, and likely to win it despite being vocally anti-Trump from time to time. A Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2018 is likely to challenge him.
Democrat Jeanne Shaheen won a second term back in 2014, but she is hoping the race will be a little easier in 2020. The seat is considered “likely blue” but always interesting to watch since New Hampshire is such a presidential indicator. Veteran Donald Bolduc has announced that he will challenge her as a repbulican, and it’s possible that former Sen. Kelly Ayotte will also throw her hat in the ring.
In New Jersey, Cory Booker is up for election for a second full term. The state DOES allow him to run for both president and senator, but we’ll likely know by summer 2020 which is more likely. If he does not win the Democratic nomination, he’ll probably throw himself fully into the senate race once again. The state is considered safely blue, and if not Booker, Governor Phil Murphy or Congressmen Norcross or Gottheimer might step up. A few Republican names are being tossed around, but Democrats are likely to keep the seat.
Democratic Sen. Tom Udall has announced that he is retiring and not running for another term. Both Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Maggie Tolouse Oliver have expressed their intention to run to replace him. Potential Republican candidates include Gavin Clarkson, former Governor Susanna Martinez, and former Rep. Steve Pearce.
Republican Thom Tillis will likely seek another term in the Senate, though he’s also considered a potential gubernatorial candidate. He is facing a Republican primary challenger but likely to beat him. Potential Democratic include several state legislators and though the seat leans red, it will definitely be a state to watch closely as it’s been a hotbed for contentious debate the past few years.
Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe is expected to easily win a fifth term, if he wants it. He is 85, though.. If Inhofe retires, former EPA Scott Pruit has been floated as a potential replacement. However, it’s still early in the cycle and since the state is solidly red, there hasn’t been much attention on the race.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkely decided not to run for president to focus on defending his seat. His seat is considered safe and there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about competitors yet.
Long-time Democrat Sen. Jack Reed is seeking a fifth term and expected to win it easily.
Conservative firebrand Lindsey Graham is up for reelection in South Carolina and expected to win, though his challengers always try to take him down. Jamie Harrison, a former state Democratic Party chair, is expected to run against him. South Carolina is often an interesting presidential primary state, so maybe the Senate race will get heated too.
Republican Mike Rounds is seeking a second term. He previously served two terms as the state’s governor, so they clearly like the guy. He is being primaried, but is likely to survive that and then face a Democrat in the general election. Rounds’ seat is considered safe.
In Tennessee, Republican Lamar Alexander announced that he would be retiring from the Senate. Therefore, while the state leans red, his seat is open. Several Republicans and Democrats have expressed interest in running, and this will be an interesting state to watch as it may give us one of the only “freshmen” senators of the cycle.
Another Texas Senate race? You bet, but no Beto in sight. This year, it’s Republican John Cornyn who is up for election. He won easily the last time, but will be primaried and face a Democratic challenger if he makes it to the general, because this is Texas, which is tending towards purple on some polls. For all we know, Beto could drop out of the presidential race and run for the Senate again (though he swears he won’t…). It’ll definitely be an interesting race to watch, even if it seems unlikely that Cornyn will lose.
Virginia is a really fascinating state electorally these days, and this Senate race could get dicey if the states’ other political debacles are any indication. Democrat Marker Warner is seeking a third term. Former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor would love to keep him from winning that third term. The race was close in 2014, so it could be close again.
Republican Shelley Moore Capito is expected to easily win a second term. Her colleague, Joe Manchin, is a Democrat who often votes with Republicans, so she seems set. One potential candidate who might run against her, though it is still early, is Richard Ojeda, who was the first Democrat to declare for the 2020 presidential race and has since dropped out. With more time on his hand, he may try and challenge Capito, though her seat is considered safe.