A couple weeks ago, The Political Edge highlighted an analysis from Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that looked at the incumbency advantage for members of the House of Representatives. In a follow up post published late last week, Kondik conducted a similar analysis for sitting U.S. senators. In this week’s Political Edge, we break down Kondik’s post and check in on the current retirement count in the House and Senate.
The Senate Primary Picture
As it currently stands, there are 19 Republicans running for reelection next year while Democrats only have 11. In his recent article for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik notes that “the last time this current crop of senators, Class II, was up for election, in 2014, no senators lost their primaries.” But what does the historical data tell us about their chances in 2020?
According to Kondik’s analysis, “In 13 of the last 19 federal election cycles, no Senate incumbents have lost re-nomination.” He continues, “Since the end of World War II, about 96% of Senate incumbents who have sought to be nominated have won re-nomination.” As a reminder, House incumbents have a re-nomination success rate of 98%.
While the odds are in the incumbent’s favor, it’s plausible that one could fall before November next year. As Kondik points out, there are a few sitting Democratic Senators who are already facing a primary challenge:
Doug Jones in Alabama: “Earlier this year, state Rep. John Rogers (D) made some incendiary comments on abortion that drew the ire of many, including Jones (Rogers later got in a back and forth with Donald Trump Jr. and said the president’s son should have been aborted). Rogers also said he would challenge Jones in a primary. Rogers has yet to file with the Federal Election Commission but has suggested that he has received a half a million dollars in campaign pledges (whether this is truly the case remains a mystery). So it’s hard to know how serious of a challenger Rogers is, but it does represent another headache for Jones, who already faces an uphill battle to win a full term. Jones is white while Rogers is black; the primary will occur concurrently with the presidential primary on March 3, 2020, and the electorate will be majority African American. But Jones also really hasn’t done anything to draw the ire of Democratic primary voters, black or white.”
Ed Markey in Massachusetts: “Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) may face the most significant challenge on the Democratic side at this point. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan (D), who led a class-action lawsuit against rideshare giant Uber, is challenging Markey; so too might Steve Pemberton (D), a successful business executive who endured a difficult childhood in the state’s foster care system. Again, it’s not obvious Markey will be in trouble, although a recent Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll of the state’s presidential primary showed him at just 44% on a ballot test, somewhat weak for an incumbent (Liss-Riordan and Pemberton each had 5% support while 45% were undecided).”
Dick Durbin in Illinois: “Another Democrat who has a primary challenger is Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is being challenged by newly-elected state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D). Stava-Murray has been critical of state Democratic Party leadership, and she refused to support long-serving state House Speaker Mike Madigan (D).”
Checking In On Retirement Numbers
Last week, Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN) announced that she would not seek reelection, making her the fifth Republican House member this year to announce they will not run for their seat again.
Historically speaking, when a party loses its House majority, it then sees disproportionate retirements in the very next election. For example, after Republicans lost their House majority in 2006, Republicans saw two-dozen retirements in 2008, compared to just three Democrats. It’s still unclear if history will repeat itself this cycle. Below are the current retirement numbers for the House and Senate
AR/Intel Insiders: You can access the most up-to-date retirement numbers any time by visiting our tracker here.
Open Seats in November 2020: 7 GOP / 4 Dem (9 Total)
|Republican:: Rob Woodall||GA-07||R+9||Retiring|
|Republican:: Rob Bishop||UT-01||R+26||Retiring|
|Republican:: Susan Brooks||IN-05||R+9||Retiring|
|Republican:: Bradley Byrne||AL-01||R+15||Running for U.S. Senate|
|Republican:: Greg Gianforte||MT-AL||R+11||Running for Governor|
|Democrat:: Jose Serrano||NY-15||D+44||Retiring|
|Democrat:: Dave Loebsack||IA-02||D+1||Retiring|
|Democrat:: Ben Ray Lujan||NM-03||D+8||Running For U.S. Senate|
|Democrat:: Eric Swalwell||CA-15||D+20||Running for President|
NOTE: Does not include special elections for Rep. Tom Marino in PA-12 (who resigned early) or Rep. Walter Jones in NC-3 (who passed away in February 2019).
Open Seats in November 2020: 3 GOP / 1 Dem (4 Total)
|MEMBER||STATE||2016 PRES. MARGIN||REASON|
|Republican:: Lamar Alexander||TN||R+26||Retiring|
|Republican:: Pat Roberts||KS||R+20||Retiring|
|Republican:: Mike Enzi||WY||R+46||Retiring|
|Democrat:: Tom Udall||NM||D+8||Retiring|