Originally published 11/12/20. Updated 1/21/21.
Earlier this 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 three of those Republican Senators are retiring.
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 indicated that he won’t seek 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 in October that he won’t be seeking a third term as Senator. The open seat will attract plenty of candidates from both parties.
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.
North Carolina’s junior Senator Thom Tillis surprised pundits by holding onto his seat in purple North Carolina this year, 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.
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.
While New Hampshire wasn’t as much in play as Trump hoped this year, 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.
Nevada was more competitive than expected this year, 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.
Sen. Rubio is probably feeling more confident about retaining his seat after seeing the election results in Florida this year. 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.
Elected alongside Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1980, Sen. Grassley in the senior Senator and currently serves as the president pro tempore of the Senate. Democrats hoped to take Iowa’s junior seat from Sen. Joni Ernst, but despite a strong candidate in Theresa Greenfeld and promising polling leading up to the election, fell more than six points short. If Grassley decides 42 years in the Senate is enough, the Democrats will try again, but for now Iowa is looking like a solidly red state.
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 just defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner by nine points. The only question is whether he or Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman is safer in this 10th slot.
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.)
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.)