An Early Look at 2020 Senate Elections

By John Isaacs

Alabama – The most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in 2020 is Sen. Doug Jones (D). In 2017, Jones won a stunning upset victory 50%-48% over former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R) in this usually solid Republican state. There is no clear Republican nominee, but Jones is likely to be labeled an underdog. 

Arizona – Martha McSally (R), after losing a close election in 2018 to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) by 50%-48%, was appointed to take the seat of late Senator John McCain (R). Mark Kelly, astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has declared. Other Democrats are contemplating taking McSally on in 2020, including Reps. Greg Stanton.

Colorado – Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the 2020 election. In 2018, Democrats won the governorship in Colorado and picked up one House seat, and Hillary Clinton carried the state in 2016. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who previously lost a Democratic primary for Senate and a House race, may run again. Other candidates are likely.

Georgia – The state has been moving towards a purple status; Stacey Abrams (D) lost her 2018 race for governor in a very close race by only 50%-49%. Abrams is reportedly being encouraged to challenge GOP Sen. David Perdue in 2020. She has promised a decision by March. If she runs, this could be one of the marquee races of 2020.

Kansas –Incumbent Senator Pat Roberts (R) will retire after this term, his fourth. The state has not elected a Democratic Senator since 1932, and although a Democrat captured the governorship in 2018, Republicans are heavily favored to hold the seat. A number of Republicans are considering the race, with some high-level Republicans urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run.

Kentucky – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) surmounted a tough challenge in 2014, 56%-41%. But he could face a difficult election next year because of his close connection to President Trump and his lukewarm ratings in the state. However, the Majority Leader is a strong campaigner who has shown a tendency to raise vast amounts of money.

Maine – Sen. Susan Collins (R) has been a highly popular incumbent in the state, but may have alienated some moderate voters with recent votes. In 2018, Democrats picked up the governorship from a retiring Republican and won both House seats in the state.

Massachusetts – If there is any challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Ed Markey, it is likely to come in a Democratic primary. Some pundits theorize that Markey, a long-time leader on nuclear weapons issues, could face Rep. Seth Moulton (D) or state Attorney General Maura Healey (D), although Moulton has said he will not run. Polls show that Markey could be vulnerable.

Minnesota – Senator Tina Smith (D), appointed to replace Sen. Al Franken, won in 2018 by 53%-42% over former state senator Karen Housley for the last two years of Franken’s term. Smith faces another election in 2020 for a full six-year term, and could get another major challenge.

Mississippi – Democrat Mike Espy, a former Congressman and Secretary of Agriculture, who held Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith to a 54%-46% win for the last two years of Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R) seat, has filed to run against her again. Hyde-Smith could also face a Republican challenger.

New Mexico – Sen. Tom Udall (D) has announced his retirement at the end of this term. While Democrats have dominated elections in recent years, Republicans are still competitive.  Rep. Ben Ray Luján has declared, and other candidates from both parties are likely.

South Carolina – Senator Lindsey Graham (R) has gone from Trump opponent in 2016 to Trump critic to Trump ally. His only threat to re-election almost surely comes from a Republican primary. In 2014, Graham took only 56% of the primary vote against six opponents.

Tennessee –Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has served since 2003, has announced his retirement at the end of this term. His replacement is likely to be a Republican; In 2018, Democrats thought they had a chance to win a Senate seat in this state, but ex-governor Phil Bredesen (D) won only 44% of the vote against then Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R). Attorney and Iraq War Army veteran James Mackler (D), who ran in 2018 before dropping out when Bredesen entered the race, has said he will run.

Texas – Republican Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn will be the favorite to be re-elected.  U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) or M.J.Hegar (D) may run.


33 Senators Up for Election in 2020

Democrats – 12

Booker, Cory A. (D-NJ)

Coons, Christopher A. (D-DE)

Durbin, Richard J. (D-IL)

Jones, Doug (D-AL)

Markey, Edward J. (D-MA)

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR)

Peters, Gary C. (D-MI)

Reed, Jack (D-RI)

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)

Smith, Tina (D-MN)

Udall, Tom (D-NM) – retiring

Warner, Mark R. (D-VA)


Republicans – 21

Alexander, Lamar (R-TN) – retiring

Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV)

Cassidy, Bill (R-LA)

Collins, Susan M. (R-ME)

Cornyn, John (R-TX)

Cotton, Tom (R-AR)

Daines, Steve (R-MT)

Enzi, Michael B. (R-WY)

Ernst, Joni (R-IA)

Gardner, Cory (R-CO)

Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)

Hyde-Smith, Cindy (R-MS)

Inhofe, James M. (R-OK)

McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)

Perdue, David (R-GA)

Risch, James E. (R-ID)

Roberts, Pat (R-KS) – retiring

Rounds, Mike (R-SD)

Sasse, Ben (R-NE)

Sullivan, Dan (R-AK)

Tillis, Thom (R-NC)