The Campaign Spot

Democrats Still Seeking Anybody to Run Against GOP Senate Incumbents

Nate Silver sends a chill down Democrats’ spines by declaring:

Our best guess, after assigning probabilities of the likelihood of a G.O.P. pickup in each state, is that Republicans will end up with somewhere between 50 and 51 Senate seats after 2014, putting them right on the threshold of a majority.

One reason Democrats may find 2014 so daunting is that at this (still early) date, quite a few Republican incumbent senators have no Democratic challengers — not merely no big-name or well-funded challengers, but any challengers at all. The few Republican incumbents who do have declared challengers are mostly looking at gadflies and amateurs, operating on shoestrings or less. While there’s still time for bigger-name, better-funded, veteran candidates to jump in . . . knocking off a longtime incumbent is rarely a last-minute venture.

In Alabama, where Senator Jeff Sessions seeks his fourth term, Democrats have . . . well, no one yet.

In Georgia, where Senator Saxby Chambliss is retiring and six Republicans will be competing in a bare-knuckle primary for the open seat, Democrats have . . . first-time candidate Branko Radulovacki, running on the slogan “Dr. Rad for Senate,” and John Coyne, who has no website.

In Idaho, where Senator Jim Risch seeks his second term, Democrats have . . . no declared candidates yet.

In Kansas, where Senator Pat Roberts seeks his fourth term, a self-declared “Moderate” candidate and an independent candidate have filed papers, but Democrats have no declared candidates yet.

You’re probably familiar with the race in Kentucky, where Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will take on a legitimate first-tier challenger, Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. Hey, good job, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, you found one!

In Maine, where Senator Susan Collins seeks her fourth term, Democrats . . . are still looking for a challenger. No declared candidates yet.

In Mississippi, where Senator Thad Cochran seeks his seventh term, Democrats have . . . no declared candidate yet.

In Nebraska, where Senator Mike Johanns is retiring, two Republicans have announced bids: former state treasurer Shane Osborn and former assistant state attorney general Bart McLeay. At this point, no Democrat has filed papers to run.

In Oklahoma, where Senator Jim Inhofe may or may not seek his fifth term (he hasn’t announced yet, and he’s approaching 80), the Democrats have a declared candidate! You can peruse insurance executive Matt Silverstein’s bare-bones website here. So far it is clear that he has a beautiful family and dog.

In South Carolina, where Senator Lindsey Graham seeks his third term, there are two Democrats that have declared bids, lawyer Larry Pavilack and businessman Jay Stamper. As of March 31, Stamper had raised $14,000.

Also in South Carolina, appointed senator Tim Scott will seek election to finish a term ending in January 2017. At this point, no Democrat has declared a Senate bid for this seat, although it’s quite possible one of the Democrats could shift to this race.

In Tennessee, Senator Lamar Alexander seeks his third term and faces at this point only one Democratic challenger, Larry Crim. (The Nashville Scene mocked his self-published, self-promotional newspaper here.) According to FEC records, as of March 31, Crim’s bid had not raised any money but spent $896.

In Texas, Senator John Cornyn seeks his third term. GreenPapers lists Tim Day as a Democratic challenger, but this site identifies him as an independent Senate candidate; he ran in 2012 as a Republican for Congress in the state’s 14th congressional district. He has apparently also filed papers to run in the 14th district again.

In Wyoming, Senator Mike Enzi seeks his fourth term and faces a GOP primary challenge from Thomas Bleming (and perhaps, soon, Liz Cheney). At this point, no Democrat has filed papers for a Senate bid.

Most of these are very red states, and obviously even the best-known Democrat would start as an underdog. But you never know when an incumbent might develop health issues, become entangled in a damaging scandal, or suddenly have some terrible YouTube gaffe that jeopardizes his chances for reelection. While most incumbents will cruise safely to reelection, a party can capitalize on unexpected swings of fortune by having a credible candidate in place as an alternative. With all due respect to the little-known candidates above . . . most of them don’t appear to be credible candidates.

A party’s task of winning elections is helped when they get their best candidates on the field. But in most of the red-state Senate races, Democrats are still looking to get any player on the field.


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