Senate Races to Watch – and Candidates to Support – in 2024

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Since shortly after the 2020 election, Democrats have held a slim majority in the Senate. This has allowed the Biden-Harris Administration to confirm 175 federal justices all over the country and pass significant legislation that would not have passed under a GOP-controlled body.

Furthermore, gaining control of the Senate conferred majority leadership on New York Senator Chuck Schumer, thereby “demoting” Senator Mitch McConnell (KY), who has led the GOP since 2007.  When the GOP had control of the Senate under Donald Trump, we saw the appointment of three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court (resulting in the overturning of Roe v. Wade), the acquittal of Trump in two impeachments, and the passage of legislation that effectively harmed many Americans and some of our institutions. It is important to understand that it is the Majority Leader who determines which bills will even come to the floor for a vote; even if a majority of Americans want to see something happen at the federal level, it won’t if the Majority Leader does not allow a vote.

There are 34 Senate seats up for election in 2024 (every two years approximately one-third of the Senate is up for election). Eight of these seats are crucial to Democrats, whether the incumbent has retired, thereby opening the seat; the incumbent is Republican and can therefore be replaced by a Democrat; or the incumbent is a Democrat but in a tough race.

Democrats must hold at least 50 seats in order to preserve the majority (with VP Kamala Harris functioning as a 51st vote, presuming the Biden-Harris ticket prevails), and some bills or proposals require at least 60 votes to succeed. We can be assured that, if the GOP retakes control of the Senate (even though the very powerful McConnell, who has endorsed Trump for President again, will no longer be Majority Leader because he is stepping down), we can expect many reactionary – even radical far-right – bills to pass and another conservative Justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court if one or more current Justices retire (or die).


Arizona. Former Democrat (turned Independent) Senator Kyrsten Sinema decided not to run for reelection. Democratic US Representative Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake are the two major candidates competing for the seat, along with several others. While Gallego has dropped out of the Progressive Caucus, trying to move toward the center, he has been endorsed by Schumer and has an important progressive background. On the other hand, voters will probably remember Kari Lake as the rather unhinged woman, supported by Trump, who still has not conceded that she lost the 2022 Governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs. The primary will be held on July 30. Click here to contribute to Gallego’s campaign.

California. The second Senate seat in one of the largest States in the Union is open due to the death of the late Dianne Feinstein, who held the seat as a Democrat for over 31 years. After being victorious over a couple of noteworthy candidates in the March 5th primary, US Representative Adam Schiff will now face Republican Steve Garvey, a former baseball MVP who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, in the Senate race. Garvey is not among the most radical of today’s conservatives, but he did vote twice for Trump and opposes abortion rights (although he says he does not support a nationwide abortion ban). Americans probably remember Schiff as lead Manager of Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 (which led to the securing of the first bipartisan vote ever to impeach a sitting president). Schiff was also Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the January 6th Committee. Lately Schiff, a Jew, has been criticized for his support of Israel since Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7, 2023 (note importantly that not supporting the State of Israel on political issues is not automatically antisemitic!), but he has lately come to support the Biden-Harris Administration’s advocacy of a cease-fire in Gaza as linked to the release of hostages. Among other work in the US House, Schiff is the lead author of The Protecting our Democracy Act, reforms intended to prevent future abuses of executive power, and he helped pass many progressive measures as a State Senator (1996-2000). Adam Schiff is very worthy of Americans’ support.

Maryland. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who was elected in 2006, decided not to run again in 2024, leaving the seat open. Larry Hogan, who served as Maryland’s popular Governor from 2015 to 2023, has jumped into the Senate race on the GOP side (along with six others), and the two top Democratic candidates are US Representative David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Hogan was a GOP Governor in a basically “blue” state, he has been a fierce critic of former President Trump, and is known as a pragmatist. Trone, a former businessman, is supported by House Minority Leaders Hakeem Jeffries and Katherine Clark, and as a congressman has worked on the side of reproductive rights, support for education, environmental safeguards, prison and immigration reform, sensible gun legislation, voting and LGBTQ rights, and expansion of Social Security benefits.

For her part, Alsobrooks, an African American, has garnered support from the likes of philanthropist Melinda Gates; former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg; Maya Harris, an attorney and sister of Vice President Kamala Harris; Democratic Governor Wes Moore; and US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), and Rafael Warnock (D-GA). Both Trone and Alsobrooks are attracting financial support, although Trone’s amount is significantly higher. The Maryland primary will be held on May 14. This race is very interesting to watch!

Montana. Jon Tester has served as Montana’s Democratic Senator since 2007; he won very narrowly in the 2006 election and in his two subsequent contests. In 2020, Donald Trump carried Montana by 16 percentage points (Montana is generally a very red state), so Republicans are anxious to reclaim this Senate seat. Because of his position as a Democrat in a red state, Tester tends to be a moderate and has won his elections, according to his own statements, “by localizing the race and discussing the cost of healthcare, access to public lands, veterans, and the cost of higher education.” His background as someone who has worked on his family’s farm and custom butcher shop also make him attractive to voters.

Tester’s challengers on the Republican side include Tim Sheehy and several others. Sheehy, as a former Navy SEAL and millionaire founder and CEO of aerial firefighting company Bridger Aerospace, may also be attractive to some voters, but it is unclear what his positions are, apart from naming inflation, border security and the federal budget deficit as top issues. A major clue about where Sheehy stands, though, is that Trump has endorsed him; this should give any pro-democracy voter great pause. Here is Tester’s site to contribute.

Nevada. Incumbent Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen took office in 2019. She has a number of challengers from several political perspectives for the June 11 primary. Nevada as a purple state is crucial to the Democrats holding the Senate. Democrat Catherine Cortez-Mastos, the other Nevada Senator, squeaked out a win in 2022, so the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has made Nevada a top priority financially.

Rosen, who first served in the US House, is promoting her ability to work across the aisle. She was instrumental in negotiating the final version of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, one of the Biden-Harris Administration’s most significant laws. It is creating thousands of good-paying jobs and repairing roads and highways, modernizing airports, and making high-speed internet faster and more affordable not only for Nevada but throughout the country. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, Rosen is using her bipartisan skills in the areas of tourism and hospitality, small businesses and entrepreneurs, clean energy, legal cannabis businesses, and innovative new technologies. She is supportive of Nevada’s labor community and pro-worker policies such as affordable child care, paid family leave, and equal pay for equal work. Another crucial aspect of her background is that she is the only US Senator who once worked as a computer programmer, making her keenly aware of the importance of supporting science, technology and mathematics. As an elected official in a border state, she has worked for years on comprehensive immigration reform. If citizens want to keep in office a Senator who conscientiously works in a bipartisan manner, Rosen would be a good choice.

Ohio. Democrat Sherrod Brown has held his Senate seat in Ohio since 2007. Brown is in a sticky situation, being the only Democratic elected official in a State that has both a Republican trifecta and triplex: the GOP “controls the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and both chambers of the state legislature.” However, during this primary season (the primary was held on March 19), the Republican Senate race – with three candidates – was plagued by very nasty infighting and name-calling. Brown, taking advantage of the situation, aired positive ads noting his efforts to “boost Ohio steel, protect pensions and help veterans get health care.” In addition, by late February he had over $13 million in his coffers, which is considerably more than any of his GOP opponents had on hand. Trump-endorsed Bernie Moreno, a former owner of luxury car dealerships in the Cleveland area who positioned himself as an outsider, won the primary in part due to an ad campaign by a Democratic PAC – the thought being that Brown will have a better chance of winning against Moreno than against one of the more moderate conservatives. Moreno’s values have shifted radically over the years, especially when it comes to LGBTQ rights. From support of Ohio’s Gay Games in 2014 and his company’s pro-gay business stance in 2020, he has completely changed after first running to the Senate in 2021. Now Moreno maintains that LGBTQ advocates promote a “radical” agenda of “indoctrination,” and he has won the support of Ohio Value Voters, which opposes LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. Sherrod Brown would seem to be a much better choice for democracy-minded voters!

Texas. Current GOP Senator Ted Cruz is one of the most hated members of the Senate and has been for awhile. He is up for reelection this year, and may still have the upper hand in the long run, but there could also be a slim chance for the Democrats to flip the seat with US Representative Colin Allred running against him. Allred has a background that can be quite appealing to a range of voters: raised by a single mother; attended Baylor University on a football scholarship; played as a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL; worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration; and elected to Texas’ 32nd District to Congress in 2018 and reelected twice. Allred would become Texas’ first Black senator if he beats Cruz, and he is enjoying impressive fundraising results in part because he is attracting small donations. Colin Allred is not only worth watching but also worth supporting.

West Virginia. Joe Manchin, long a thorn in the side of other Democrats, decided not to run for reelection in 2024 after serving in the Senate since 2010; he previously served as Governor of the State from 2005 to 2010). (There is a movement afoot by some Democrats to see if Manchin would come back into the Senate race as an Independent; Manchin has until August 1 to decide. He did decide not to run for President as an Independent.) One of the most conservative Democratic Senators, Manchin frequently clashed with the Obama Administration on policy and legislative matters but was able to work with various Republican colleagues on energy issues – significant because of the importance of coal in West Virginia. Also on the conservative side have been Manchin’s stances on gun rights and his opposition to both same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Keeping this seat will be difficult for Democrats. The three contenders on the Democratic side in the May 14th primary are Don Blankenship, Glenn Elliott and Zachary Shrewsbury, with over half a dozen contenders running as Republicans. Blankenship, unfortunately, is not exactly an upstanding choice: the “former CEO of Massey Energy was found guilty in 2015 of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed in April 2010. He served one year in prison on the charge.” Elliott, an attorney and former legislative aide, currently serves as Mayor of Wheeling. He is determined to protect Social Security and Medicare; restore women’s rights to make their own health care decisions; and expand childcare and early childhood education opportunities. Shrewsbury, a Marine Corps veteran and the grandson of a coal miner, with a working-class background, has primary goals in the areas of labor protections, universal healthcare, and addressing the addiction crisis. He has been highly critical of Manchin, stating that he is “notorious for undermining President Biden’s legislative agenda at every turn, denying Americans a $15 minimum wage, and tanking the bill that would have protected the rights to abortion after the Dobbs decision.” It is perhaps Shrewsbury who might be most worthy of financial support in this Senate race. The difficulty for Democrats in West Virginia is another reason that Democrats in the other close races need as much support as they can muster.


As many have noted, the election of 2024 is one of the most consequential in US history. Some commentators have even said that, if Trump is re-elected, it may be our last legitimate election – because Trump and his cronies (including a number of Senators) will tenaciously cling to power. We cannot let that happen – all of us who are eligible to vote must do so, not only for President but also for “down-ballot” candidates who will preserve our freedoms, not take them away.