Democrats fear a possible 'wave of retirements' could endanger their Senate majority in 2024: report
On Thursday, January 5, four-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan announced that she won’t be seeking reelection in 2024. It wasn’t an announcement that Democrats welcomed; Michigan is a key swing state for Democrats, and Stabenow has been a strong campaigner over the years.
After unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham in 2000, Stabenow defeated Republican challengers by 15 percent in 2006, 20 percent in 2012 and 7 percent in 2018. Stabenow, now 72, has performed well in a state that former President Donald Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020. That isn’t to say that Democrats won’t find a strong U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan in 2024, but Stabenow, having been reelected three times, has a track record.
That U.S. Senate seat, according to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, isn’t the only one where retirements or possible retirements could prove problematic for the Democratic Party in 2024. If other Democratic senators with a history of getting reelected leave, Bolton stresses, it could jeopardize Democrats’ Senate majority in 2024.
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“Senate Democrats’ hopes of keeping their majority after the next election is complicated by a potential wave of retirements in key battleground and Republican-leaning states,” Bolton announced in an article published by The Hill on January 6. “Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), a member of the Democratic leadership, announced on Thursday that she won’t run again, and all eyes are on Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who haven’t announced their plans. Their two seats in reliably Republican presidential states would be particularly difficult to hold on to for Democrats.”
Manchin is a decidedly centrist senator who, not unlike Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (a former Democrat turned Independent), often frustrates liberals and progressives in his party. But Manchin is in a unique position: He is a Democrat who is popular in a deep red state that former President Donald Trump won by around 39 percent in 2020. And Tester, similarly, is a three-term Democrat in ultra-Republican Montana.
Democratic strategist Steve Jarding, a former advisor to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DCCC), warns that Stabenow’s decision to retire from the Senate is not good news for his party.
Jarding told The Hill, “This shapes up to be a very difficult cycle for Democrats anyway, and this is just another blow to the chances of keeping the Senate when you lose an incumbent.”
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Mike Berg, director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told The Hill that GOP strategists plan to “aggressively target” Stabenow’s Senate seat. And Matt Grossman, a political science professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing, told The Hill, “It certainly will be competitive. We’re a swing state, and an open Senate race inherently will be competitive in a swing state.”
However, Bolton reports that “Howard Edelson, a Democratic strategist with a long history in Michigan politics, said there are a wide array of strong Democrats who could run for Stabenow’s seat, including (Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is among the Democratic liberals who hasn’t been railing against Sinema, and he has said that he is encouraging her to seek reelection in 2024. But things could get interesting in Arizona in 2024 if there is a three-way Senate race between independent Sinema, a Democrat and a Republican.
“Sinema could face a tough three-way race in the general election after announcing her decision to leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent,” Bolton notes. “Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is moving aggressively to position himself for the Democratic Senate nomination. He announced Thursday, (January 5) that he is hiring two fundraising strategists who played key roles on Sen. Mark Kelly’s (D-Ariz.) successful 2022 reelection campaign.”
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