The South’s 2020 US Senate races

The South’s 2020 US Senate races



The 2020 election will be dominated by the presidential contest. But much more is at stake, including control of the US Senate, which will be vital to either party, no matter who is president. Democrats need to pick up four seats in the Senate to win control. In the South, where President Trump is a political force to be reckoned with, the quick picture is that Republicans should defeat one Democratic incumbent, US Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama. Perhaps the other vulnerable incumbent is Republican US Sen, David Perdue in Georgia, especially if he is challenged by former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams.

This analysis of the outlook for the 12 US Senate contests on next year’s ballots in the South. In this article, the current status of upcoming Senate elections in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are examined.

In a later article, this story concludes with snapshots of 2020 US Senate elections in North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Alabama: Freshman Democratic US Sen. Doug Jones is arguably the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate. Jones won a narrow 1.6% victory in a 2017 special election, defeating Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who faced allegations of past inappropriate relations with teenage girls as an adult. Only one Republican has announced, US Rep. Bradley Byrne, who criticized Jones for his vote against confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. State Senate President Del Marsh (R) says he’s considering running. Others (R) getting mentioned include US Reps. Gary Palmer, Robert Aderholt and Mo Brooks.

The Republican nominee will be helped immensely by “Trump on top of the ticket, probably running against someone not understandable in Alabama,” says former state GOP chairman Marty Connors. Nevertheless, Jones is getting plenty of free national media, just last week in Newsweek, Morning Joe and CBS News. Nor did he shy away from criticizing Trump.

Arkansas: US Sen. Tom Cotton (R) is a pro-Trump lawmaker who occasionally strays from the reservation.  He has strong Republican support in the Razorback State and the only Democratic name getting mentioned as an opponent is term-limited state Sen. Joyce Elliott. Elliott previously served as the state House Majority Leader; she lost a congressional race in 2010. Little Rock political consultant Richard Beardon (R) says, “I don’t expect [Cotton] is going to have any trouble if his reelect numbers stay where they are, and I don’t expect them to change.”

Georgia: US Sen. David Perdue (R) is potentially vulnerable in a Red State that’s turning Purple, especially if former state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) decides to run against him. She will announce her decision by the end of this month. Some believe she’s more interested in another run for governor; last year she lost to Brian Kemp in a close and bitter contest. Says an Atlanta insider, “She is still strong, but the outcome might depend on who the Democrats nominate for president. If their nominee is too liberal, it would hurt the Democrats in the Senate race.” In any case, given recent strong Democratic gains in the Atlanta Metro area, an Abrams-Perdue race would be close, with a small advantage to Perdue.

Kentucky: Democrats would like nothing better than defeating Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R) next year. An able and effective lawmaker, he is nevertheless not warm and fuzzy, and his numbers are usually mediocre. Nevertheless, political consultant Dale Emmons (D) opines, “Anybody who runs against McConnell is a really long shot. Trump is way up, still very popular here. The damned guy is bullet proof.” In a special election last week for a state senate seat, a Republican won a previously Democratic seat. Democrats getting mentioned for the race include Amy McGrath, who lost a close congressional race last year, though she probably won’t run. “The most likely,” says Emmons, “is sports radio host Matt Jones,” who focuses on the University of Kentucky basketball games – a big deal here. Btw, Jones’s mother, a Commonwealth Attorney, is a Republican.

Louisiana: Freshman US Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) kept a low profile in his first four years in the Senate. In the past year, however, he’s been on Fox talking about border security, economic development and other issues. And he’s been upfront in his support for President Trump, who is popular here. Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster, says, “There’s no hope for a Democrat beating him.” Should a Republican run against Cassidy he would have a rough go.  “At this point, he’s as solid as you can get in Louisiana,” says Pinsonat.

Mississippi: Freshman US Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), the state’s former Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner, was elected to the US Senate in a 2018 special election, defeating former US Rep. and former US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (D) in a runoff. During the campaign she remarked she would attend “a public hanging” with a supporter, a comment that created controversy. “Her comments turned off a lot of Republicans,” says a Jackson insider. One potential opponent is fellow Republican Gerard Gibert, who recently sold his company, Venture Technology. As for the Democrats, Espy is likely to run again. Nevertheless, the Magnolia State is Trump country, and if Hyde-Smith survives the primary, she’s likely to win against Espy or any other Democrat.