An Overall Look at 2018 Senate Races


Latest news:

==In Maryland, Sen. Ben Cardin easily brushed back a challenge from Chelsea Manning, who managed only 6% of the vote. Similarly, Mitt Romney handily won his primary in Utah and will be the next Senator from that state.

==Corey Stewart, who promised to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine and I’m going to win,” won a close June 12 primary to be the November candidate. Other candidates formally nominated on June 12 include Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) to face Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and Rep. Jackie Rosen (D) to face Sen. Dean Heller (R).

==Much primary news on June 5. In California, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) easily outpaced Kevin De León for the Democratic nomination 44%-11%, but they will face off again in November.  In New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez (D) won renomination, but lost 38% of the vote to an underfunded opponent. He faces drug company executive Bob Hugin in the fall. In Montana, State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) narrowly won his primary with 34%, and now faces Sen. Jon Tester (D).

==Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who lost the West Virginia Senate primary, says he will run in the fall as an independent, although a “sore loser” law may prevent this second campaign.


After the 2016 elections, Democrats picked up two Senate seats, but Republicans maintained a majority of 52 Republicans seats compared to 48 Democratic seats — until the December 12 special election in Alabama to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The partisan breakdown is now 51-49 in favor of the GOP after Doug Jones (D) upset victory in Alabama.

In 2018, the numbers clearly work for the Republicans in Senate elections to retain and even expand their majority. There are 26 Democratic (including two independents) seats up for election and only nine for the Republicans.

The majority of the nine Republican seats look safe for the incumbents. The three major exceptions are Sen. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada, the seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona and the seat currently held by Sen. Bob Corker (R).

A number of the Democrats have to campaign in states that went for Donald Trump in 2016. Democratic Senators running in states carried by President Trump by double digits include Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Joe Manchin in West Virginia.

On the other hand, mid-term elections can be hard on the party in power, which almost always loses seats. These elections tend to be a referendum on incumbent president; as Donald Trump has proved divisive and controversial in office, there should be openings for Democrats.

Another thought worth considering is that only three incumbent Senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah, have announced retirement. However, two Senators resigned their seats, Al Franken of Minnesota and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, creating two special elections this fall. Alt right leader Steve Bannon, later banished from the Trump kingdom, promised other primaries against Republican incumbents, but that threat has petered out.

There is one wildcard: Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) health could force his retirement.

Ironically, the problems with the Trump administration and the mid-term tendency to go against the party in charge of the White House provides Democrats a better opportunity to win control of the House rather than the Senate where the current margin is much closer, however. Even that calculation may change.

Senators up for re-election in 2018

Democratic seats (26)
California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Connecticut – Chris Murphy (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Florida – Bill Nelson (D)
Hawaii – Mazie Hirono (D)
Indiana – Joe Donnelly (D)
Maine – Angus King (I)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren (D)
Michigan – Debbie Stabenow (D)
Minnesota A – Amy Klobuchar (D)
Minnesota B – Tina Smith (D)
Missouri – Claire McCaskill (D)
Montana – Jon Tester (D)
New Jersey – Bob Menendez (D)
New Mexico – Martin Heinrich (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
North Dakota – Heidi Heitkamp (D)
Ohio – Sherrod Brown (D)
Pennsylvania – Bob Casey, Jr. (D)
Rhode Island – Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
Vermont – Bernie Sanders (I)
Virginia – Tim Kaine (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)
Wisconsin – Tammy Baldwin (D)

Republican seats (9)
Arizona – Jeff Flake (R) – retiring
Mississippi A – Roger Wicker (R)
Mississippi B – Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)
Nebraska – Deb Fischer (R)
Nevada – Dean Heller (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R) – retiring
Texas – Ted Cruz (R)
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – retiring
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)


A look at specific 2018 races

Alabama: In the December 12 special election, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones upset former State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R) in a major upset. Moore was handicapped by charges of harassment of underage teenagers. Jones will serve until 2020.

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) has been an ardent and vocal opponent of Donald Trump, and wrote a book detailing his criticisms. On October 24, in terrible political shape, he announced he would not run again. Ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who lost last year’s primary to Senator McCain 51%-40%, had announced that she would challenge Flake. In January 2017, 85-year old Republican Joe Arpaio, former sheriff known for his hardline approach to Hispanics, announced he is running, as is Rep. Martha McSally. Democrats have a strong candidate in Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

California: After leaving her future uncertain, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) announced in October 2017 that she will run for re-election.  On June 5, Feinstein (D) easily outpaced state senate leader Kevin De León for the Democratic nomination 44%-11%, but they will face off again in November.

Florida: In April 2018, Governor Rick Scott (R) announced his challenge to Senator Bill Nelson (D) in what will be a very expensive and competitive race. Nelson, who is 74, is the most popular politician in Florida, but Scott has won the governorship twice and is very wealthy. Polls show a close contest.,

Indiana: State Rep. Mike Braun (R) defeated two House candidates after a nasty and bitter primary and faces Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). It is a tough state for a Democrat to win.

Maine: Sen. Angus King (I) is in good political shape. He has one Republican opponent, State Sen. Eric Brakey, who is not well known, and one Democratic opponent, Zak Ringelstein, a teacher and a founder of an education business.

Maryland: Incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin (D) is the overwhelming favorite to win re-election in strongly Democratic Maryland. He easily beat back a challenge from  Chelsea Manning.

Massachusetts: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) is a very strong candidate. Computer scientist Shiva Ayyadurai (R), state Rep. Geoff Diehl (R), financial consultant Allen Waters (R) and John Kingston (R), a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who has self-funded to the tune of $3.5 million, are running against her.

Michigan: Debbie Stabenow (D) looks to be in strong shape for re-election, but Republican candidates see an opening. Businessman John James (R), who served with the Army in Iraq and businessman Sandy Pensler (R) are running against her.

Minnesota (A): In early August, 2017, State Rep. Jim Newberger (R) announced he will challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), who is the overwhelming favorite.

Minnesota (B): With the departure of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), accused of sexual transgressions, Governor Mark Dayton appointed his Lieutenant Governor, Tina Smith, as Franken’s replacement. Former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, an anti-Trump crusader, is going to challenge Smith as a Democrat. State Sen. Karin Housley and dental technician Bob Anderson (R) will run for the Republican nomination. The Republican establishment appears to be coalescing around Housley.

Mississippi A: Roger Wicker (R) is running for re-election in an overwhelmingly Republican state. He will coast to re-election after State senator Chris McDaniel (R) dropped his challenger to Wicker to run for the other Mississippi Senate seat. Venture capitalist Howard Sherman and state representative David Baria finished a close 1-2 in the June 5 primary, and now face a June 26 runoff.

Mississippi B: On March 21, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced the appointment of Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, to fill the seat of GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned from the Senate on April 1 because of ill-health. State senator Chris McDaniel (R) has dropped his challenge to incumbent Senator Roger Wicker (R) and instead will run for this seat. Former U.S. Representative and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (D) has also entered the race.

Missouri: In 2012, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) was fortunate to run against Rep. Todd Akin (R), who made infamous comments about “legitimate rape.” Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) will be the Republican nominee. McCaskill may be the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democratic candidate.

Montana: Sen. John Tester (D) dodged a bullet when Rep. Ryan Zinke (R), who represented the entire state in the House, was appointed Interior Secretary. But Trump carried the state by 20%, so Tester’s re-election will not be easy. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (R) has joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (R) in declining to challenge Tester, but a close election is still likely. State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) narrowly won the June 5 GOP primary.

Nebraska: Lincoln City Councilmember Jane Raybould (D), who runs the grocery business her father started more than 53 years ago, is challenging Sen. Deb Fischer (R) in a very though state for Democrats.

Nevada: Senator Dean Heller (R) is up for election in a state carried twice by President Obama and once by Hillary Clinton. Still, Heller has won four elections in the state and he will not be easy to dislodge. In July 2017, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) announced she will run. It will be a close election.

New Jersey: Senator Robert Menendez (D) went on trial on federal corruption charges in September, but a hung jury ended the trial. In January 2018, the Justice Department dropped all charges. Bob Hugin (R), formerly a top executive at the pharmaceutical company Celgene, won the June 5 GOP primary to face Menendez, who lost 38% of the Democratic primary vote to an underfunded challenger.

New Mexico: Senator Martin Heinrich (D) has a challenger after Albuquerque construction company owner Mark Rich (R) announced his candidacy. Rich has never run for office, but could self-fund.

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) faces an electorate that strongly backed President Trump. In August 2017, state Sen. Tom Campbell (R) entered the race. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) first announced he would not run, but in February 2018 reversed course. Campbell promptly dropped out. It’s a toss up.

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) beat back a challenge in 2012 from state treasurer Josh Mandel (R), but in early January 2018, Mandel dropped out of the expected rematch due to his wife’s health problems. After Mandel left the race, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R) switched from running for governor to enter this Senate contest and won the May 8 primary.

Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey (D) is in a good position to be re-elected, but the state went for Trump in 2016, leaving some uncertainty. In August 2017, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta announced that he will run, and he won the May 15 GOP primary.

Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) has announced his retirement at the end of this term. In December, former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) entered the Democratic primary. GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn will be the Republican nominee. Bredesen remains popular, and has a narrow lead.

Texas: U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), a three-term Representative from El Paso, is challenging incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R). O’Rourke, who is the underdog, is a businessman in the technology industry and a musician who played in three punk rock bands during and after his college years at Columbia University. O’Rourke is raising huge amounts of money in an unconventional campaign and has closed the margin.

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) will retire after eight terms in office. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) is the overwhelming favorite to be elected. He easily brushed back a primary challenge.

Virginia: Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart (R), who came close to claiming the Virginia GOP nomination for governor, won the primary on June 12 to face Sen. Tim Kaine (D). In his announcement, Stewart promised to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign against Tim Kaine and I’m going to win.”

West Virginia: State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) won the May 8 primary, turning back former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and a third candidate, and faces Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in November. West Virginia is a state which has turned very Republican in recent years but still elects Democrats to the U.S. Senate and as Governor. Blankenship is threatening to run as an independent in the fall.

Wisconsin: While a lot of Republicans circled around the Senate seat of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), in the end state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) and Marine veteran and businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) are the only two who have declared. There will be months of vigorous battle for the August 14 primary between Nicholson, a former president of College Democrats of America, who has been endorsed by Club for Growth, and Vukmir, who appears to have the support of Governor Walker’s team.

Wyoming:  Sen. John Barrasso is seeking re-election. Businessman Gary Trauner (D), who very narrowly lost a 2006 House bid, has announced he will run against Barrasso.