California: There is change coming to California after Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her retirement. With the state firmly in Democratic hands, a Democrat is expected to emerge as the winner. Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is the front-runner for the nomination but she is being challenged by U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. The top two finishers in the state’s “jungle primary” will run in November regardless of party.
Colorado: Sen. Michael Bennett (D) won his first Senate election in 2010 with the assistance of the Republican Party nominating a weak candidate. At this point, Republicans have again failed to come up with a strong challenger in this election even though Cory Gardner (R) defeated Sen. Mark Udall (D) in 2014.
Connecticut: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) had a tough battle against multi-millionaire Linda McMahon (R) in 2010 but should coast to victory in 2016.
Hawaii: The state has become increasingly Democratic. Sen. Brian Schatz (D) won a special election in 2014 to fill the remainder of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s term but has to run for a full term in 2016. He should have no problem winning re-election.
Maryland: The decision by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) to retire has opened the first Senate seat in Maryland in many years. U.S. Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are competing for the Democratic nomination, although other Democratic candidates may still enter the race. The primary winner is almost assured of being the general election winner.
Nevada: This Senate contest looks like a clear toss-up. With Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D) retiring after five terms, the field looks to be settled. Reid and the Democratic Party are rallying around former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D). U.S. Rep. Joe Heck (R) is the presumptive Republican nominee. This election will go down to the wire.
New York: Senator Chuck Schumer, the expected next Senate Democratic leader in 2017, riled some Democrats by opposing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal but this incumbent Senator is not likely to attract a serious opponent in heavily Democratic New York.
Oregon: Incumbent Senator Ron Wyden (D), who has served three terms, looks to have no serious opposition in either party despite Democratic grumbling over his stance on the trade deal and some of his health care proposals.
Vermont: Having served in the Senate since 1974, Senator Patrick Leahy (D) is the most senior member of that chamber. He will not be seriously challenged for an eighth term.
Washington: Washington State has tended to vote Democratic for President and Senate. Senator Patty Murray (D), seeking a fifth term, should have no trouble being re-elected.
Alabama: The Senate fundraising leader is Senator Richard Shelby (R), who has amassed more than $18.7 million. The five-term incumbent has not been seriously contested for years and will not be in this election.
Alaska: One of the major upsets in 2010 was Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R) primary loss to Tea Party candidate Joe Miller. Even more amazing, Murkowski came back to win as a write in candidate. She should have an easier run this time.
Arizona: Democrats hope for a surprise in the Grand Canyon state. U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is a tough campaigner who has been elected in a swing district in 2009 and 2013 and has high name recognition. Her argument is that Arizonians are tired of an out-of-touch incumbent Senator John McCain (R), who has served five terms. McCain first will face primary opposition, but it is not clear how formidable that challenge is. State Senator Kelli Ward is running, but is not considered to be a strong candidate.
Arkansas: The state has gone from strongly Democratic in the Bill Clinton years to strongly Republican. Both Senate seats, all four House seats and both chambers of the state legislature are Republican. Two years ago, Senator Mark Pryor (D) suffered an embarrassing 17 point defeat to Senator Tom Cotton (R). Incumbent Senator John Boozman (R) should easily win re-election.
Florida: There is no looking back for Senator Marco Rubio (R), who is running for President rather than re-election. Both parties face primaries in a purple state where there is no clear-cut favorite. Democrats have a contest between moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy against the erratic and outspoken U.S. Alan Grayson. Republicans face at least a three-way primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, backed by a number of conservative groups, the more moderate U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, backed by Rubio. Florida is a swing state for President and should be for Senator as well.
Georgia: Democrats had hopes of picking up a Republican Senate seat in 2014 with Michelle Nunn, but did not succeed. Incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson (R) should sweep to a third term.
Idaho: Democrats need not apply; incumbent Senator Mike Crapo (R) will easily be elected to a fourth term.
Illinois: Incumbent Senator Mark Kirk (R) is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the Senate. He has lingering health problems and has committed a series of gaffes. Even some Republicans have questioned whether Kirk should run for re-election. The favorite for the Democratic nomination and general election is U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth. First, she will have to overcome a stiff challenge from Andrea Zopp (D), former CEO & President of the Chicago Urban League, who is raising sufficient funds to be competitive.
Indiana: Senator Dan Coats (R) is retiring after one term. Republicans are favored to hold the seat but face a primary between Coats’ former chief of staff and former state party chair, Eric Holcomb, the conservative favorite, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and U.S. Rep Todd Young, favored by the national GOP establishment. Former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill (D), a moderate, is hoping to steal a Republican seat the way that Sen. Joe Donnelly did in 2012.
Iowa: Republicans took a Democratic Senate seat in 2014 in the Hawkeye State and there will be no serious challenge to incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley (R), a six-term Senator going for a seventh.
Kansas: Independents and Democrats posed serious challenges in 2014 to Republican incumbents for Governor and Senator but were beaten back. Senator Jerry Moran (R) should sweep to a second term.
Kentucky: Politicians of both parties are focused on the November 2015 race for governor, and are not paying much attention to the Senate seat held by Senator Rand Paul (R). Paul is trying for the Daily Double: run for President and for his Senate seat at the same time. The filing deadline for major party Senate candidates is January 27, 2016, a few days before the scheduled February 1 Iowa caucuses. However, the Kentucky GOP has set the nomination process for Senator through a March 2016 caucus rather a primary, so Paul will be able to run for re-election if his presidential hopes are dashed.
Louisiana: Incumbent Senator David Vitter (R) is running for governor this November. If he wins, he will appoint a successor who is likely to run for a full term in November 2016. Democrats in the state are floundering.
Missouri: While Missouri naturally favors Republicans, Democrats have come up with a strong candidate in Jason Kander (D), a 34-year old military veteran and state Secretary of State. Kander is an aggressive fundraiser. Incumbent Senator Roy Blunt (R) is favored, but his ratings in the state are mediocre.
New Hampshire: It all comes down to the decision of Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan on whether to challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). If Hassan takes the plunge, this will be a very tight contest. If the Governor stays out, Ayotte should win in a walk. Outside GOP groups have spent heavily to undermine Hassan’s enormous popularity.
North Carolina: Democrats had hoped to convince former U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, who lost a close race in 2014, to challenge incumbent Senator Richard Burr (R). Hagan declined, but several other Democratic candidates are considering the race, including former Washington quarterback and U.S. Representative Heath Schuler. Burr is favored for a third term, but Democrats hope to make a contest of it.
North Dakota: It might take the oil patch running dry in North Dakota for Senator and former Governor John Hoeven (R) to lose. He probabliy will not get significant opposition.
Ohio: The low-key Senator Rob Portman (R) is running for re-election. Several surveys have shown the incumbent to be running behind former Governor Ted Strickland (D), who lost a close battle for re-election to Gov. John Kasich (R) in 2010. Portman has socked away a huge amount of campaign funds. GOP Superpacs are attacking Stricklandin an attempt to bring the challenger down a peg. First, however, Strickland will have to overcome a primary challenge from a much younger Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
Oklahoma: Former U.S. Representative James Langford (R) won a landslide 68% of the vote in a special election to win the two years remaining of Republican Senator Tom Coburn’s term and he has no problems in 2016.
Pennsylvania: In 2010, a good year for Republicans, Senator Pat Toomey (R) won a close election against U.S. Representative Joe Sestak (D). Sestak is back for a second run at the seat in a year that should be much better for Democrats. First, however, he will have to overcome a challenge from Katie McGinty (D), former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, who is backed by much of the Democratic establishment that is uncomfortable with the very independent Sestak. Sestak is the favorite in the primary, and a slight underdog in the general election.
South Carolina: After Senator Jim DeMint (R) resigned his state to take over the Heritage Foundation, U.S. Representative Tim Scott (R) easily won a special election to replace him and will sweep to victory in 2016.
South Dakota: Republican Senator John Thune was unopposed in 2010 and should have an easy time returning to the Senate in 2017.
Utah: Senator Mike Lee (R) was in the vanguard of the Tea Party rebellion and ousted long-time Senator Bob Bennet in 2010. While some Republicans have mumbled about challenging Lee, none have stepped up and Democrats are hard to find in the state.
Wisconsin: Democrats are slightly favored to retake this seat, with former Senator Russ Feingold (D) challenging the person who beat him in 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson (R). Several polls show the challenger in the lead, unusual against an incumbent. Johnson has made little impression in the state. Having largely self-funded in 2010, his campaign treasury is only slightly larger than Feingold’s. If Feingold is successful, it will be first time that a defeated Senator has come back to beat the previous winner since 1934.