2024 Senate races to watch

No, it's not too early to start keeping an eye on some important races

The 2024 election is still a long way off, but several lawmakers have already announced they are running for one of the 34 Senate seats up for grabs. There are a few races in particular to keep an eye on, like Arizona's, where Democrats and Republicans both aim to oust the state's newly independent senator, Kyrsten Sinema. Here's everything you need to know:

California will have a new senator

It's the end of an era — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), who has represented California since 1992, announced on Feb. 14 that she will not seek re-election in 2024. This comes after several Democratic lawmakers shared with The San Francisco Chronicle last spring their concerns that Feinstein, who will turn 90 years old in June, is experiencing cognitive decline and is no longer fit to serve. 

A month before Feinstein made her retirement official, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), an attorney whose district is in Orange County, announced she is running for Senate, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I think that people understand that Washington is broken, and they see it caters to billionaires, powerful corporations, and special interests, and in doing that leaves families behind and threatens our democracy. I've seen how this corruption threatens our country and our economy. I want to run to do what I have been doing in Congress — standing up to special interests and fighting for families."

Porter, 49, said she spoke with Feinstein staffers ahead of her announcement, and has "deep respect" for the "trailblazer" senator. Rose Kapolczynski, a Democratic strategist, told the Times it was a good move for Porter to become the first California Democrat to announce a Senate run. "There's always an advantage in being early, as long as you're not seen as inappropriately speculating on someone's retirement," she said.

Porter was soon joined by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), 62, who announced his candidacy on Jan. 26, declaring: "We're in the fight of our lives — a fight I'm ready to lead as California's next U.S. Senator." Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has his back, saying on Feb. 2 that if Feinstein was out of the picture, she would support Schiff, "who knows well the nexus between a strong democracy and a strong economy." 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) entered the race on Feb. 21, one month after telling her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus she planned on running. In a video message, Lee, 76, said, "For those who say my time has passed, well, when does making change go out of style? I don't quit. I don't give up. Come on. That's not in my DNA. Because when you stand on the side of justice, you don't quit. If they don't give you a seat at the table, you bring a folding chair for everyone." Lee, who was elected to the House in 1998, was the only member of Congress to vote against giving President George W. Bush authorization to use military force in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

What's happening in Arizona?

Her term is up in 2024, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who recently changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent, has not shared whether she intends to run for re-election. There is one Arizona Democrat who hopes to take her seat: Rep. Ruben Gallego, who announced on Jan. 23 that he is running for Senate. "Growing up poor, all I had was the American dream," Gallego, 43, tweeted. "It kept me going: as a kid sleeping on the floor, a student scrubbing toilets, a Marine losing brothers in Iraq. Today, too many Arizonans see their dream slipping away. I'm running for the U.S. Senate to win it back for you!"

Gallego, who has been in the House since 2014, is of Colombian and Mexican descent, and if elected, would become Arizona's first Latino senator. Democrats have long been unhappy with Sinema's defense of the filibuster and opposition to major parts of their agenda, but in a statement, Gallego said the "problem isn't that Sen. Sinema abandoned the Democratic Party — it's that she abandoned Arizona. She's repeatedly broken her promises, and fought for the interests of Big Pharma and Wall Street at our expense."

While no Republicans have officially entered the race yet, several are thinking about giving it a go. Kari Lake, the former television news anchor who lost the Arizona gubernatorial race in 2022, is seriously contemplating running, and would likely announce her plans in June, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post. A spokesperson for Blake Masters, who was defeated in the 2022 Senate race by incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D), is also "strongly considering" running in 2024, his spokesperson shared with CNN. Karrin Taylor Robson lost the most recent GOP gubernatorial primary to Lake, and in a statement said she is "still deciding how I can best serve the state that I love." She added that "many Arizonans" have contacted her about the Senate race, "hopeful that our party will nominate a strong, authentic conservative who will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."

Who's in the running in Indiana?

In December, Sen. Mike Braun (R) announced he will not be running for re-election, and will instead enter the Indiana gubernatorial race. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) became the first Republican to say they will run for Braun's seat, telling The Associated Press on Jan. 17, "I just believe now more than ever that we need conservatives in the Senate who are going to fight back against radical Democrat policies instead of going along with it." Banks, 43, was first elected to Congress in 2016, and remains a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Two Republicans who seemed likely to enter the Senate race have both said they are passing: Rep. Victoria Spartz and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University. In December, Spartz told reporters she had been "asked to consider" running for Senate, but did not say who approached her. On Feb. 3, Spartz told reporters she's not going to enter the Senate race, and she also isn't going to run for re-election to the House, opting instead to spend time with her two teenage daughters. Daniels revealed on Jan. 31 that he also isn't running, telling Politico that "with full credit and respect to the institution and those serving in it, I conclude that it's not the right job for me, not the town for me, and not the life I want to live at this point."

What about Michigan?

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the first woman elected a U.S. Senator from Michigan, declared on Jan. 5 that she has "decided to pass the torch in the U.S. Senate" and will not seek re-election in 2024. The 72-year-old, who was first elected in 2001, shared that she wants to spend more time with her family. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) became the first Democrat to throw her hat into the ring on Feb. 27, saying in a video announcing her campaign that it's time for "a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder, and never forgets that we are public servants." Slotkin, 46, is a former CIA intelligence officer. A moderate Democrat, she defeated an incumbent Republican in 2018 to take office, and in November won re-election by five percentage points. Three Democrats — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who recently moved to Michigan — have all said at this time, they are not interested in running for the open seat, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Updated Feb. 28, 2023: This piece has been revised throughout to reflect recent announcements.


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