Last year Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Osoff changed the balance of power in the U.S. Senate with their run-off election victories. But with a 50/50 split, Chuck Schumer’s position as Majority Leader sits on a knife’s edge, and most states will be going back to the polls in 2022—including, once again, Georgia. Warnock holds the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson, whose term was set to expire next year. Additional seats currently held by 21 Republican and 12 Democratic Senators will up for grabs, and at least five of those Republican Senators are retiring. The Democrats would seem to have the advantage to hold onto the Senate, but midterms are traditionally difficult for the party in power, and Republicans will look to pick up seats in places like Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada.
In our increasingly partisan landscape, most of those seats are safe. But here’s a look at the 10 most competitive Senate races in 2022.
Ron Johnson was elected to the senate in 2010, defeating Sen. Russ Feingold in a Republican wave that year. A fiscal conservative, he was reelected in 2016 in a rematch with Feingold by a margin of 3.4%, capturing 50.2% of the vote. Wisconsin has since elected a Democratic governor in 2018 and tilted toward Biden this year. More importantly, Johnson has yet to announce whether he’s running for a third term, making this seat one of the prime target for Democrats in 2022.
When Toomey was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 15th District in the U.S. House in 1998, he pledged to serve no more than three terms and declined to run for a fourth. He was elected to the Senate in 2010 and won a second term by a margin of 1.5% as Donald Trump breached the blue wall in 2016. But Pennsylvania continues to be a competitive state, and Toomey announced that he won’t be seeking a third term as Senator. The open seat will attract plenty of candidates from both parties, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and moderate U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb on the Democratic side and Trump-endorsed Fox contributor Sean Parnell and real-estate developer Jeff Bartos vying for the Republican nomination.
Gov. Brian Kemp appointed businesswoman Kelly Loefler to the Senate in December of 2019 to succeed Sen. Isakson, who resigned due to health concerns. Her challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock unseated her to give the Democrats a 50/50 split and control of the U.S. Senate. Democratic voters showed up in unprecedented numbers for a run-off and they’ll have to repeat that in a non-presidential election year to keep Georgia blue. He’ll likely be running against former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, though Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black is another potential nominee.
North Carolina’s junior Senator Thom Tillis surprised pundits by holding onto his seat in purple North Carolina in 2020, but Richard Burr decided not to do the same, announcing his retirement soon after winning his fourth term in 2016. It’s just as well, in the wake of insider trading allegations that saw him sell off hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock after being briefed on the severity of Covid-19—even Fox’s Tucker Carlson was calling for his resignation. He’s remained in the Senate, but the seat will be up for grabs in 2022. Top Democratic contenders include former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Senator Jeff Jackson, while former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd are battling it out among the Republicans.
While New Hampshire wasn’t as much in play as Trump hoped in 2020, Sen. Hassan won her seat by a razor-thin .1% margin in 2016 against an incumbent Republicans, and the GOP will have the former Governor in their sights when she faces reelection for the first time. Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Scott, are pushing for current Gov. John Sununu to run for the seat, and polling shows him with a lead over the incumbent.
Nevada was more competitive than expected in 2020, and Republicans are likely to take it seriously in 2022, when Sen. Masto is up for reelection after the former Nevada Attorney General narrowly defeated Joe Heck by a margin of 2.6% in 2016 to succeed majority leader Harry Reid. Republicans have recruited another former state Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, to challenge for the seat, and Army veteran Sam Brown has also announced a run.
As with Georgia, the seat that Mark Kelly just won in Arizona was an appointment after the death of Sen. John McCain, and he’ll have to defend it again in just two years. Republicans will be out for revenge and are likely to run someone other than Sen. Martha McSally, who has now lost two Senate races in a row in the Grand Canyon state, whose counties we all now know so well. So far, five candidates have announced their bids for the nomination, including Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich, COO of Thiel Capital Blake Masters and retired Arizona National Guard Major General Michael McGuire.
Sen. Rubio is probably feeling more confident about retaining his seat after seeing the 2020 election results in Florida. Democrats keep holding out hope of winning statewide elections only to fall short, in part due to strong support among his fellow Cuban-Americans in the southern part of the state. Still, Democrats will stepping up to the football one more time, hoping Lucy doesn’t pull it away. Their best hope looks to be U.S. Rep. Val Demings, though recent polls show she has a lot of ground to make up.
Ohio has become more reliably red in recent years, and Sen. Rob Portman beat his Democratic opponent by more than 20 points in 2016. But Portman is retiring, and many Democrats are pinning their hopes on U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents a blue-collar district in northeastern Ohio and is currently polling surprisingly well in match-ups against a crowded Republican field. He’ll be vying for the nomination against Morgan Harper, an advisor to the Consumer Protection Bureau. On the Republican side, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to have a slight lead over state party chair Jane Timken, author J.D. Vance and businessman Mike Gibbons.
Sen. Bennett’s presidential campaign never really got off the ground, but he should find himself pretty safe in ever-bluer Colorado, where former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner by nine points last year. Nine challengers have already announced, but none is a prominent political figure. The only question is whether he or 88-year-old Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley or is safer in this 10th slot. The open seats in Missouri and Alabama both look pretty secure for the Republicans.
Alabama – Sen. Richard Shelby (Rep.)*
Alaska – Sen. Lisa Murkowski(Rep.)
Arkansas – Sen. John Boozman (Rep.)
California – Sen. Alex Padilla (Dem.)
Connecticut – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Dem.)
Hawaii – Sen. Brian Schatz (Dem.)
Idaho – Sen. Mike Crapo (Rep.)
Iowa – Sen. Chuck Grassley (Rep.)
Illinois – Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Dem.)
Indiana – Sen. Todd Young (Rep.)
Kansas – Sen. Jerry Moran (Rep.)
Kentucky – Sen. Rand Paul (Rep.)
Louisiana – Sen. John Neely Kennedy (Rep.)
Maryland – Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Dem.)
Missouri – Sen. Roy Blunt (Rep.)*
New York – Sen. Charles Schumer (Dem.)
North Dakota – Sen. John Hoeven (Rep.)
Ohio – Sen. Rob Portman (Rep.)
Oklahoma – Sen. James Lankford (Rep.)
Oregon – Sen. Ron Wyden (Dem.)
South Carolina – Sen. Tim Scott (Rep.)
South Dakota – Sen. John Thune (Rep.)
Utah – Sen. Mike Lee (Rep.)
Vermont – Sen. Patrick Leahy (Dem.)
Washington – Sen. Patty Murray (Dem.)
This story was originally published 11/12/20 and updated 10/28/21.