Senate races heating up

Senate races heating up
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The race for the Senate is heating up, with Democrats looking to net five seats and win back a majority.

Republicans are defending seats in six states won by President Obama, creating a strong playing field for Democrats.

But in a presidential year, the top of the ticket could decide who wins the majority.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in some of the most competitive races:

Illinois Democratic primary

Rep. Tammy Duckworth is the prohibitive favorite for the nomination and has enjoyed a number of high-profile endorsements, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Illinois Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Ex-Sheriff David Clarke: Trump only one who 'cares about black American citizens' DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor MORE. In the final fundraising quarter of 2015, she outraised her primary rivals, as well as incumbent Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (R).

But not everyone has flocked to her candidacy, and her Democratic rival, former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp, has been picking up some steam, landing support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is an influential player in Illinois politics, and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

Illinois state Sen. Napoleon Harris is also running for the Democratic nomination. The primary is on March 15.

Ohio Democratic primary

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is the Democratic establishment favorite to take on GOP Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Overnight Tech: Regulators to look at trading in bitcoin futures | Computer chip flaws present new security problem | Zuckerberg vows to improve Facebook in 2018 MORE. But Strickland’s March 15 primary opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, refuses to back down and is pushing him to defend his gun record and past A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.

Still, Strickland has nabbed major endorsements, including from the Ohio Democratic Party and DSCC, and outpaced his Democratic rival in 2015 fundraising. Sittenfeld has a super-PAC, New Leadership of Ohio, that raised $735,000, but an Associated Press report found that half of the contributions were from the city councilman’s father and the deputy campaign manager’s family.

Strickland is also taking fire from Portman, who has $12 million in the bank.

Arizona general

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE escaped the prospects of a bruising Republican primary after Reps. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonQuiet jockeying for McCain seat angers Republicans McSally tells GOP colleagues she'll run for Arizona Senate GOP Senate hopeful Kelli Ward leads challengers in internal poll MORE and David SchweikertDavid SchweikertFive obstacles to Trump's infrastructure ambitions The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill GOP Senate hopeful Kelli Ward leads challengers in internal poll MORE opted against challenging the five-term senator. But McCain still faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Kelli Ward and will be forced to spend some of his money leading up to the Aug. 30 primary election.

While the seat favors the GOP, a recent Behavior Research Center poll found McCain and likely Democratic nominee Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickGold Star father attacked by Trump steps up role in Dem primaries House Dems highlight promising new candidates Vulnerable House incumbents build up war chests MORE in a statistical dead heat.

Still, Kirkpatrick raised $1.8 million in 2015 and has $856,000 on hand, while McCain ended the year with $5.1 million in his campaign coffers.

New Hampshire general

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) will likely challenge Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (R) in what is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races. Both have raised $2 million for their bids, though Ayotte has a cash advantage. Early 2016 polling shows Ayotte ahead.

National security has become a premier issue in the race as Ayotte hits Hassan over the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees and support for the Iran nuclear deal. Ayotte’s campaign has called out Hassan for remaining silent on foreign policy issues.

But Hassan was the only Democratic governor to support halting Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States, creating party backlash

Wisconsin general

Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is seeking a rematch against incumbent GOP Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators eager for Romney to join them The House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology Comey’s original Clinton memo released, cites possible violations MORE. The two have nearly the same amount in the bank despite Feingold’s fundraising edge, and a recent survey found that the former senator maintains a double-digit lead over Johnson.

Veterans’ issues have recently taken center stage in the race after outside groups launched attack ads accusing both of neglecting a scandal over excessive painkiller prescriptions at the state’s Tomah VA facility.

Johnson and Feingold also came under fire for their Senate attendance. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, missed 60 percent of committee hearings between 2011 and 2014. While serving in the Senate, Feingold missed 50 percent of Foreign Relations Committee hearings from 2005 to 2010.

Florida Republican primary

Republicans are trying to hold on to the seat Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE vacated to pursue a presidential run. A crowded field has shaped up, and all three leading candidates have super-PACs, which are expected to play an outsize role.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, who launched his bid in May, is backed by the conservative Club for Growth. Both his campaign and super-PAC have strong fundraising numbers.

Lt. Gov. Carlos López -Cantera, who entered the race in July, posted lower numbers. But his aligned super-PAC, which has been raising money since April, has kept pace with the group supporting DeSantis.

Rep. David Jolly, who also jumped in July, has raised more than López -Cantera, but his super-PAC is severely less funded than his two primary rivals.

In mid-January, Jolly introduced a bill that would ban lawmakers from personally soliciting campaign donations so they can spend more time on their legislative duties. He said he plans to abide by his legislation during his Senate bid and shift those priorities to his staff.

One businessman is also running, and another may get into the race.

The primary is Aug. 30.

Florida Democratic primary

The Democratic establishment has rallied around Rep. Patrick Murphy, a former Republican, and tried to push out liberal firebrand Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonEighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation Pennsylania Dems file ethics complaint against Rep. Barletta The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE to avoid a bruising primary.

Republicans have capitalized on Grayson’s candidacy, hoping he moves Murphy’s political positions to the left and hurts Democrats’ chances in November.

But Grayson’s personal life has been a distraction. He met with an ethics investigator in October over accusations about his hedge funds, and three top advisers departed from his campaign.

Despite all the buzz surrounding Grayson, he recently nabbed a high-profile endorsement from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of former Sen. Bobby Kennedy (D-N.Y.). The primary is Aug. 30.

Pennsylvania Democratic primary

Democrat Katie McGinty, former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, and former Rep. Joe Sestak are in a competitive race.

Sestak, who riled party leaders by running and successfully winning against then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D), jumped into the race early. But the party sought an alternative and recruited McGinty, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014.

While McGinty outraised her Democratic rivals in the final fundraising quarter of 2015, her poll numbers still lag behind Sestak, who lost to incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010. 

A third candidate trails both.

The winner of the Democratic primary, which will be held on April 26, will face an uphill battle in the general election. Toomey has a substantial fundraising advantage, and polls show him defeating all of the Democratic candidates in head-to-head match-ups.

Indiana Republican primary

Republicans scrambled to jump into the race for retiring Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump urges House to reauthorize NSA surveillance after ripping it in a tweet Overnight Cybersecurity: Computer chip flaws present new security challenge | DOJ to offer House key documents in Russia probe | Vulnerability found in Google Apps Script Counterterrorism director: Current atmosphere makes job 'more difficult' MORE’s safe GOP seat.

The Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund threw their support behind Rep. Marlin Stutzman as he competes for the nomination against Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungTrump steps up threats to foreign aid Blue wave of 2018 stops in Indiana and Missouri Indiana GOP candidate targets Senate rival over past Trump criticism MORE. On Monday, Eric Holcomb, a former state GOP chairman, dropped out of the race after raising little money.

Even with outside groups behind Stutzman, Young has continued to outpace him. And Holcomb’s departure from the race could be a boon for Young as he seeks to consolidate GOP establishment support.

Democrats are challenging whether Young qualified for the May 3 ballot.

The only Democrat running is former Rep. Baron Hill.

Nevada general

Rep. Joe Heck (R) will likely square off against Catherine Cortez Masto (D) for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE’s (D) seat.

Reid endorsed Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, and he and his political machine will likely play a significant role as Democrats seek to hold on to his seat and regain control of the upper chamber.

Both candidates will need to court Hispanic voters, who could play an integral role. If elected, Cortez Masto would be the first Hispanic in the U.S. Senate.