Though we are at the very beginning of the 2024 election cycle, already significant action is underway in many key Senate races.
At this point, activity has occurred in 13 Senate contests that will be competitive next year. The Nevada race featuring Sen. Jacky Rosen (D), which is also sure to be hotly contested, is not part of the early activity group, however.
In alphabetical order by state, below is a recap of the early happenings:
Arguably, the most action has occurred in the Grand Canyon State beginning with incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaving the Democratic Party and becoming an Independent who is not caucusing with either party. She has not yet announced her re-election campaign but it is expected that she will seek re-election. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination and he is on a path to clinch the primary in early fashion. Only speculation and testing of the political waters has occurred on the Republican side. The Arizona race will evolve into a tightly contested three-way race.
As expected, veteran Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), now the longest serving Democrat in the chamber since former Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has retired, announced that she will not seek re-election to a sixth full term in office. The Senator originally claimed the seat in a 1992 special election and won her first six-year term two years later. During her Senate career she has chaired the Rules and Intelligence Committees.
Sen. Feinstein joins Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in retiring from politics. Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) is not seeking re-election to the Senate in order to run for Governor.
Already Reps. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) have announced their candidacies for the all-party jungle primary scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is making it known that she intends to enter the race, as well. Republicans won’t be a factor here, so we will almost assuredly see a Democratic intra-party battle that will last all the way through the general election.
Republicans are in strong shape in this election cycle since they have few seats to protect. Arguably, Sen. Rick Scott (R) could be the Republican in the most vulnerable position, but right now he looks to be in solid political shape. He may face a Republican primary challenge from wealthy businessman Keith Gross, but this is only educated speculation at the present time. Democrats hope to recruit former Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy into the race, but there is yet no indication that she will run.
Sen. Mike Braun (R) is not seeking re-election in order to run for Governor. With former Governor Mitch Daniels out of the GOP race, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) is well out front in his quest to lock down the party nomination. Since Democrats are unlikely to field a competitive candidate, Rep. Banks, at least at this early date, appears to be a Senator-in-waiting.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) announced her retirement in early January, and after a great deal of preliminary talk no major candidate in either party has yet announced a Senate candidacy. It is expected that Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) will run. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland), ex-Rep. Fred Upton, and former Congressman Mike Rogers have all confirmed they are considering the statewide bid. We can expect multiple candidates to eventually come forward to compete for this open seat. The Democrats will be favored to win a close general election regardless of who becomes the respective party nominees.
Sen. Jon Tester (D), who faces a much more Republican electorate since he was last on the ballot in 2018, says a decision about seeking a fourth term will come before the end of March. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive), Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), and Attorney General Austin Knudsen are all mentioned as potential Republican candidates. Before he was elected to the House, Mr. Rosendale challenged Sen. Tester in 2018 and lost a close 50-47% result.
The Cornhusker State will feature two Senate races in 2024 since incumbent Ben Sasse (R) resigned his seat at the beginning of January. Sen. Deb Fischer (R) is not expected to have any trouble winning a third term, but appointed Sen. Pete Ricketts (R), the state’s former Governor, is apparently headed for a contested Republican primary when he runs in the special election to fill the balance of the current term. The special election will occur within the regular election schedule. Former Trump backed gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, an independently wealthy agribusinessman, and a rival of Sen. Ricketts, is openly considering a Republican challenge. It is expected that Herbster will run and though spending large amounts of money, Sen. Ricketts will still likely prevail in the GOP primary. He would then become the prohibitive favorite for the general election.
Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D) quest for a fourth term is already underway, but he faces an electorate that has moved considerably to the right compared to when he was last on the ballot in 2018. In that year, Sen. Brown defeated then-US Rep. Jim Renacci (R), 53-47%, in a campaign that didn’t seem as close as the final result indicated.
At this point, state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), a 2022 US Senate candidate, businessman, and minority owner of the Cleveland Guardians baseball club, has announced his 2024 candidacy. It is expected that other Republicans will join the race, particularly Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R). Regardless of the results from the May ’24 Republican primary, the Ohio Senate contest will remain a top tier challenge race throughout the entire election cycle.
In this 2024 Keystone State race, much depends upon incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, Jr’s (D) health. The Senator was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier in the year, and says he will make a final evaluation about his political future after recovering from yet-to-be-performed surgery. The state moved leftward in the 2020 election and, assuming his health allows him to proceed with conducting another campaign, Sen. Casey will be favored for re-election.
The Republican political bench is rather weak, but most of the speculation surrounds David McCormick, a former major hedge fund CEO. Mr. McCormick came within 950 votes of winning the 2022 GOP Senate primary, and he is considering making another run.
Though he won the closest statewide election in recent Texas political history back in 2018 (51-48% over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), Sen. Ted Cruz (R) appears to be in good position for re-election next year. The Texas Democratic political bench is weaker than in 2018, and it is probable that 2024 will be at least a slightly better Republican year than the political climate GOP candidates faced five years ago.
It is unlikely that Mr. O’Rourke will return for another battle with Sen. Cruz after losing the Governor’s race last November to incumbent Greg Abbott (R). The state Democratic Party leadership would like to see Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) challenge the Senator, but such a move appears improbable at this point. Redistricting yielded Rep. Allred a safe seat, so now his risk factor is substantial in order to assume an underdog position in a Lone Star statewide race.
While the Utah Senate seat is not particularly attainable for a Democrat in the general election, incumbent Sen. Mitt Romney, should he choose to seek re-election, will have nomination problems. It is a virtual certainty that he could not win a ballot position from a state Republican convention, but he can qualify through the petition signature process. Utah GOP Attorney General Sean Reyes is expressing interest in challenging Sen. Romney, as could other state officials. Retirement is clearly a possibility for Sen. Romney, though recent statements suggest he is considering seeking a second term.
An interesting aside might be another Independent run from 2022 general election candidate Evan McMullin. This time, however, the Democrats are likely to field their own candidate instead of coalescing behind McMullin, but a three-way race might actually make it easier for the Independent to prevail. While a Democratic candidate would siphon the party’s base votes, McMullin might be in favorable position to garner support from the substantial number of anti-Romney Republicans.
Likely the most vulnerable in-cycle Senator is West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D), who now faces an electorate that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+36. Dave’s Redistricting App calculates a 32.1% Republican Mountain State partisan lean.
While Sen. Manchin has not yet committed to running for re-election, and speculation persists that he might launch a presidential campaign, Congressman Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) has already declared his candidacy, and Gov. Jim Justice (R) may soon follow suit. The Governor, who is ineligible to seek a third term, has said he will make a decision before the middle of March. This race is the Republicans’ strongest conversion opportunity in the country.
The Badger State continues to produce highly competitive statewide political contests as the 2022 US Senate and Governor races illustrated. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) will be on the ballot for a third term, and many Republican leaders hope that US Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) will step into the statewide arena. Like Rep. Allred in Texas, however, Rep. Gallagher’s influence in the House is growing and he would have to risk a safe congressional seat in order to run an underdog race for the Senate. The GOP will produce a credible candidate, but Sen. Baldwin has to be viewed as the favorite to win what should be another close race.
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