Update: Senate Races Come into Focus

March 26, 2024

Several recent developments have helped bring the Senate map into focus.

Why it matters: Republicans have a geographic advantage in the roughly 1/3 of Senate seats up for re-elections. Right now the chamber is 51 (D) and 49 (R), though the Dem number includes three Independents.

  • With Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) retirement, GOP Gov. Jim Justice is all but certain to flip the seat. An evenly divided Senate would mean the vice president breaks any ties, and determines the majority.
  • Then, Republicans only need to flip one more seat to gain a majority. And they have at least three toss-ups: Ohio, Montana, and Arizona.

Ohio Senate Race: Republican Primary

The seat is rated as a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report and is one of three toss up races that will determine the makeup of the Senate come 2025. It is one of the two contests where a Democratic incumbent is defending their seat in a state former President Donald Trump won twice.

Bernie Moreno won the Ohio republican primary last Tuesday, defeating State Senator Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Moreno will now face Senator Sherrod Brown in the general election.

Moreno won 50.5% of the vote compared to Matt Dolan’s 32.9% and Frank LaRose’s 16.6 %.

  • Moreno has the backing of former President Trump, Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
  • Dolan had the endorsement of former Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH).

Why it matters: The Senate Democrat campaign arm spent millions boosting Moreno in the primary, as he is viewed as a more manageable opponent for Senator Brown this fall. Moreno was viewed as the candidate most aligned with former President Trump, a factor Democrats believe could limit his appeal to independents.

Democrats have used the strategy of boosting “easier-to-defeat” candidates in general elections with increasing frequency over the last few election cycles. This approach has worked for Democrats and you can read more about it here.

  • Democrats immediately began running ads attacking Moreno as someone who cannot be trusted, employing quotes from his two primary candidates during their sole debate.
  • For his part, current Senator Sherrod Brown stated that Moreno was “not fighting for Ohio” and suggested that Moreno’s position on abortion is not in line with Ohio voter priorities.

Democrats will likely focus on abortion access as a key issue in most races, and the issue will be directly on the ballot as a referendum issue in some states.

Montana Senate Race

The Montana primary isn’t until June 4, but the general election is all but set.

  • Tim Sheehy will likely face incumbent Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) for the seat in November. The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive of the cycle.

Tester is running for his fourth term to represent Montana, having won in strong Democratic years of 2006, 2012, and 2018.

  • Tester has consistently outrun both President Obama and President Biden in the state, as the state has backed Republicans in every presidential election cycle since 1996.
  • But Tester’s elections have been won within four points, and he will share the ballot with Trump for the first time.

Republican Tim Sheehy is a former Navy SEAL originally from Minnesota and the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, a Belgrade-based aerial firefighting company. He has the backing of statewide and national Republicans, including Trump.

Learn more about the candidates here: Candidate profiles

What they’re saying: The trend of Chinese companies buying farmland in the state has become a key issue. Both candidates are highlighting their efforts to stop China from purchasing the land and are voicing their concerns about the purchases.

Monument vallet


Arizona Senate Race

After Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) announced she is forgoing a re-election run, this race looks to be a matchup between Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R). However, the primaries for this election don’t occur until July 30.

The candidates have already started to run general election ads, in advance of the official matchup.

Meet the candidates

Republican Kari Lake narrowly lost the race for Governor in 2022 to current Arizona governor Katie Hobbs but never officially conceded the race. Lake claimed as recently as February that she believed it was stolen.

  • Lake was the anchor for the Phoenix television station KSAZ-TV from 1999 to 2021, and was a vocal supporter of Obama in 2008.

Democrat Ruben Gallego has been a member of Congress since 2015, representing a solidly Democratic district outside Phoenix. Gallego had been openly critical of former Democrat Sinema (I-AZ), which prompted him to mount a primary challenge.

Learn more about each of these candidates here: Candidate profiles.

New Jersey?

While New Jersey is unlikely to be a battleground state, embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced he will not run for re-election as a Democrat. He may still file to run as an independent.

  • Menendez has been polling in the single digits against Democrat challengers, including New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy and Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ).
  • Over the weekend, Murphy dropped out of the race after weak showings at several local party caucuses. The move likely cements Kim’s spot as the Democratic nominee.

Please contact James Montfort
(jmontfort@crefc.org) with any questions.


James Montford
Manager, Government Relations
Illustration of an Ohio interstate sign being watered by a hand in a suit
The information provided herein is general in nature and for educational purposes only. CRE Finance Council makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, validity, usefulness, or suitability of the information provided. The information should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal, financial, tax, accounting, investment, commercial or other advice, and CRE Finance Council disclaims all liability for any such reliance. © 2023 CRE Finance Council. All rights reserved.

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