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Ten contested races this fall will decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate in the next Congress.

Races in Washington, California Expected to Elect Democrats to the Senate

Oregon’s two senators don’t face re-election this year, but the 33 Senate races being contested will determine whether Democrats retain control in the next Congress. Democrats hold a slim 51-49 majority. Three of the 51 senators are independents who caucus with the Democrats.

Pundits identify 10 high-profile Senate races this year. Five of them feature Democrats with tough re-election campaigns. Three others will decide who succeeds retiring Democratic or former Democratic senators. The two Senate seats Democrats would like to flip are in Texas and Florida.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s decision to retire means his seat will flip to Republicans. Senate races in Utah and Nebraska will remain in Republican hands, but may prove interesting to watch.

The prospect of Republicans regaining control of the Senate in the 2024 election makes the stakes even higher for the current contest to replace Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who will step down from his post later this year. McConnell has led Senate Republicans since 2007, making him the longest serving Senate party leader in U.S. history.

Close to Home
Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, is running for a fifth term. Eight candidates have filed to challenge Cantwell in Washington’s nonpartisan primary August 6 that will determine the top-two vote-getters who will run in the November general election. Cantwell won her last re-election bid in 2018 with more than 58 percent of the vote.

California has an open Senate race following the death of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein last fall and the appointment of Laphonza Butler to fill the remainder of her term. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and former baseball great Steve Garvey, a Republican, finished first and second in California’s top-two primary and will face off in November. Schiff is the likely winner in strongly blue California. Whoever wins, the election will mark the first time in three decades California won’t be represented in the Senate by a woman. In 2022, Alex Padilla won the Senate seat surrendered by Kamala Harris when she became vice president.

Republican Targets
A top target for Republicans is Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester, a third-generation Montana farmer who was elected in 2006 and re-elected twice. Winning a fourth term could be more difficult in a state Donald Trump carried in 2020 by 16 percentage points. Tester faces Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL, who has Trump’s endorsement and can self-finance his campaign. Political observers rate the race a toss-up.

Three-term Ohio Democratic Sherrod Brown also is in a tight race with Trump-endorsed Republican Bernie Moreno, who outran GOP establishment candidates and also can self-finance his campaign. Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, is the rare Democrat in a state that has become solidly Republican, largely because of his reputation as a stalwart supporter of the working class. It’s also rated a toss-up.

Nevada Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen, who was a computer programmer before her election to Congress, is seeking a second term. Rosen was one of only two non-incumbent Democrats to win a Senate seat in 2018 (Sinema was the other non-incumbent). Rosen is expected to face political newcomer Sam Brown, a West Point graduate who was nearly killed while serving in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb that left him scarred. The race could turn on how well either Joe Biden or Trump do in the presidential election.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, a lawyer and the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the U. S. House and Senate, is seeking a third term as a progressive who supports Medicare for All and gun control. She will face Eric Hovde, a banker who can self-finance his campaign. Baldwin at this point is the favorite to return to the Senate.

Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Jr. is seeking a fourth term. His father was a former governor of Pennsylvania. Casey was elected to the Senate 2006 after defeating Republican Senator Rick Santorum. Casey is expected to face Republican David McCormick, who lost in the 2022 primary to Mehmet Oz, whom Trump endorsed. McCormick is the former chief executive of a large hedge fund. Casey is expected to prevail.

Open Senate Seats
After Senator Krysten Sinema decided not to seek re-election, the Arizona Senate race is between Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, a former Marine and Harvard graduate who represents the Phoenix area, and Kari Lake, a former television news anchor and unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 2022. Lake is a Trump-backed candidate and Arizona has shifted from red to purple as Joe Biden carried the state in 2020. The race is also a toss-up.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is retiring, which sparked a GOP primary battle August 6 between three candidates with checkered connections to Trump. Just days after being sworn in, former Michigan Republican Congressman Peter Meijer voted to impeach Trump, creating a backlash and his defeat in the 2022 primary. Congressman Mike Rogers, considered the mainstream Republican in the primary, previously said the GOP needed to move on from Trump, then wooed and won Trump’s endorsement for his 2024 Senate bid. Another former Michigan congressman, Justin Amash, who denounced Trump and was hounded from the GOP, is seeking the Senate seat as an anti-Trump Republican.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who has successfully appealed to swing voters in her Central Michigan district centered in Lansing, is expected to be the Democratic candidate this fall. Pundits give her the edge if she can win votes in Detroit.

Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin’s retirement has created an opening for Republicans as former Governor Larry Hogan, known for his moderate political positions, decided to run for the seat. Angela Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s County executive, is the Democratic frontrunner to succeed Cardin in the predominantly Democratic state.

Democratic Wish List
Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida are on the Senate Democrats’ never-say-never wish list. Cruz, who seeks a third term, faces a spunky challenge by Democratic Congressman Colin Allred, who represents a district in Dallas and was a former linebacker for Baylor University and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans before earning his law degree.

Scott, a former two-term Florida governor who was elected to the Senate in 2018, will run against Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell who represents a district that includes the Florida Keys. Born in Ecuador and raised in Miami, Mucarsel-Powell is the first South American immigrant to serve in Congress after winning election in 2018 by unseating a Republican. The electoral dynamics changed this week when the Florida Supreme Court ruled a pro-abortion referendum could appear on the state’s November ballot. Cruz and Scott are backed by Trump.

Utah Democrat Caroline Gleich’s campaign video begins with
“I don’t look like a Senator” before she skis down a steep slope.

Interesting Races
Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney is retiring, resulting in a multi-candidate Republican primary that includes four-term Congressman John Curtis of Provo, Brent Hatch, the son of former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, and Brad Wilson, former speaker of the Utah House. The winner will face Democrat Caroline Gleich, a professional skier, climate activist and political newcomer who easily has this year’s most energetic campaign introduction video. As good as her video is, it probably won’t be enough to overcome the state’s huge Republican voting edge.

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer is seeking a third term without a Democratic opponent. However, Dan Osborn is trying to qualify as an independent for the ballot. Osborn, who is a mechanic, gained recognition in 2021 for leading a 77-day strike at a Kellogg’s cereal plant in Omaha that endured stormy weather, the threat of dismissals and imported strikebreakers. Not given much of a chance in a deeply red state, Osborn says, “I’ve gone up against a major American corporation. I stood up for what I thought was right, and I won.” Less than 10 percent of Nebraska’s workers are union members.