Way Too Early Election Predictions: U.S. Senate

Being the policy wonks that we are (literally eating and breathing politics), we like to maintain a pulse on the upcoming elections and predict who is likely to win in key races. This will be a two-part series, with the first part focusing on key Senate races that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber in the 117th Congress.

The first state is Alabama, with Senator Doug Jones (D) – won the 2017 special election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions, who left office to serve as President Trump’s Attorney General – currently holding the seat. In 2017, Jones beat Republican candidate Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, by less than two percentage points (in a state that President Trump won with 62% of the vote in 2016). Judge Moore was far from a perfect candidate and was narrowly defeated.

In 2020, Senator Jones will face off against the winner of the state’s GOP primary field, which currently includes Sessions (looking to reclaim his old seat), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1); former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville; and Judge Roy Moore, who is running again for the seat. As it relates to Sessions – who only recently jumped into the race – it will be interesting to see if he is able to clear the field or if he will fall by the wayside as a result of his falling out with President Trump.

Based on Alabama being a reliably “red” state, my prediction is that as long as the Republican nominee is not Roy Moore, Republicans should be able to pick up this seat. Republicans gain a seat here. TIA has not had too much interaction with Senator Jones.   

The next state is Arizona, with Senator Martha McSally (R) currently holding the seat that she was appointed to following the death of Senator John McCain in August 2018; prior to her Senate appointment, McSally served in the House of Representatives for Arizona’s 2nd District. Congresswoman McSally ran for the Senate in 2018 against Congresswoman Krysten Sinema (D), where she lost by roughly 2.5 percentage points. President Trump carried the state with 48% of the vote against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving 45%. Arizona continues to trend as a “purple” state, and her Democrat opponent will be Mark Kelly, former Astronaut and husband to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords – who was the victim of an assassination attempt back in 2011. Being a border state, immigration should be a key issue to watch in this race. My prediction is Mark Kelly will squeak out a victory over Senator McSally for a variety of reasons, and Democrats gain a seat here. Senator McSally was very helpful to TIA when she was a Member of the House on Homeland Security issues.

The next state is Colorado, with Senator Cory Gardner (R) running as the incumbent. Senator Gardner hopes 2020 shakes out better for him than the Republican Party of late in the state of Colorado. Hillary Clinton won the state by 5 percentage points in 2016 and former Congressman Jared Polis easily won election as the Governor in 2018. There are a number of candidates who have announced to run against Senator Gardner, including former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper (D) – who recently dropped out of the Presidential race – and former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. I think Governor Hickenlooper will ultimately win the nomination and continue the trend of Democrats dominating Colorado by beating Senator Gardner, who by all accounts has been a good Senator, but the political environment doesn’t bode well for him in the state. Democrats gain a seat here. Senator Gardner has been a supporter of TIA and the logistics industry.

The last state we will look at is Maine, with Senator Susan Collins (R) who will likely be facing her toughest challenge yet. Senator Collins does not always toe the Republican line and does – from time to time – break with the party on key votes. She will likely face Sara Gideon, who is the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Senator Collins has been in the Senate since 1997 and won reelection to her fourth term in 2014 with 68% percent of the vote. It will be interesting to see how the voters of Maine will vote based on her vote to support Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. I think Senator Collins will get reelected to her fifth term with around 53% of the vote. Republicans maintain a seat her. Senator Collins has been a champion for TIA and the transportation industry on many different issues.

Other states to keep a close eye on include: Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Texas. I don’t see a lot of upsets here, but I think there will be one that no one expects. . .

In the end, we think Republicans barely maintain control of the Senate and Congress remains divided (spoiler alert for the next issue).

If you have any questions or want to learn more about TIA’s Advocacy efforts, please contact TIA Advocacy (advocacy@tianet.org, 703.299.5700).

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