Senators Confirm Re-Election Bids for 2016

Vitter has announced a bid for governor, leaving the future of his Senate seat in flux in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Vitter has announced a bid for governor, leaving the future of his Senate seat in flux in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted January 28, 2015 at 3:50pm

The 2016 cycle could feature the fewest open Senate seats in at least a decade.  

Of the 34 senators facing re-election next year, just one has announced retirement . A CQ Roll Call survey of the entire Senate class showed only one more senator publicly undecided about re-election, plus three additional senators considering bids for other offices. Two more Senate offices did not return requests for comment on re-election plans, though Democrats are near certain one of them — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will seek another term.  

Every other senator up for re-election in 2016 — 27 of them — has indicated plans to seek re-election, in most cases confirming their intentions personally or through aides.  

“I’ve talked to everybody,” said Jon Tester, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to CQ Roll Call Tuesday. “Everybody says they’re running.”  

In November, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker said in an interview  he’s not expecting a single GOP retirement.  

Compare that to every election since 2006, when an average of seven senators retired each cycle.  

To be sure, in today’s nonstop campaign environment, every senator prepares to seek re-election until deciding otherwise. For example, former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., swore he was running again in 2010, before announcing his retirement in January that year.  

And there are often last-minute surprises: Former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., did not announce his retirement until Feb. 15, 2010, just days before the filing deadline. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, blindsided her Senate colleagues in 2012, when she announced in February she would not seek re-election.  

This cycle might not be much different. For instance, operatives speculate Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will not seek re-election, though he has reiterated he is running for a sixth term.  

Unlike recent cycles, Senate Republicans will play defense this cycle: There are 24 GOP senators up for re-election, several of whom hail from competitive states. Only two of the 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election are running in places that could become swing states.  

Democrats need to gain five seats in 2016 to ensure the majority.

Planning to Run

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
Ayotte, 46, is running for a second term as a top Democratic target in the Granite State. She told CQ Roll Call, “I haven’t had a formal kickoff yet, but yes, I’ve announced I’m running for re-election.”  

Republicans mentioned Ayotte as a potential pick for vice president, and if that happens, New Hampshire law allows candidates to run for re-election and on the national ticket in the same year.  

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Bennet, 50, is running for re-election , his campaign confirmed Wednesday.  

Earlier this month, he hired a campaign manager who, according to Bennet’s press release, will help “run a strong and winning campaign that allows our office to continue serving Coloradans and fighting for the state in the U.S. Senate.”  

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Blumenthal, 68, plans to run for re-election, an aide confirmed Wednesday.  

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Asked whether he planned to run for re-election, Blunt, 65, told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, “Yes, but I haven’t announced yet.”  

The senator said he has already started to raise money for his intended bid.  

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Boozman, 64, plans to run for re-election, he told CQ Roll Call in a Tuesday interview. The senator had emergency heart surgery last year, but said he has fully recovered.  

Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C.
Burr, 59, announced last year he will seek a third term.  

Last week, he announced his top campaign team — more proof he’s gearing up for a re-election campaign.  

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho
Crapo, 63, plans to run for re-election, a spokesman for the senator told CQ Roll Call Wednesday via email.  

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa
Grassley, 81, a fixture of Iowa politics for more than three decades, is planning to stick around. He told CQ Roll Call  in an interview last week he began preparing his re-election last year.  

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Hoeven, 57, told CQ Roll Call in November that, “at this point, I expect to” run in 2016. His office confirmed Wednesday that is still his plan.  

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
Isakson, 70, rattled off the campaign team he’s organized for his re-election bid, and said he’s excited to run for a third term .  

“I was in the minority for 17 years in the Georgia Legislature and eight of my 10 years in the United States Senate, so that’s 25 years out of 34,” Isakson recalled to CQ Roll Call this week. “I’m very happy to be in the majority.”  

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
In March 2013, Johnson said in an interview with a radio station he would seek a second term in 2016, and the 59-year-old has since discussed what a re-election campaign would look like .  

Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill. Kirk, 55, who has faced mobility challenges since he suffered a stroke in January 2012, didn’t hesitate when asked if he will run for re-election.  

“No frickin’ way am I retiring,” Kirk told CQ Roll Call in November . His office confirmed his plans this week.  

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
Lankford, 46, “plans to run for re-election,” a spokesman for the senator emailed CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.  

Lankford was elected in a special election last year to succeed now former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. It would be highly unusual for him to bow out after just two years.  

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. Leahy, 74, the longest-serving senator in Congress, said through staff he is preparing to run for an eighth term.  

“Senator Leahy is actively preparing for his 2016 campaign including raising the resources necessary for a successful campaign,” Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy’s campaign manager, said in an emailed statement. “He will make a formal announcement in Vermont at the appropriate time.”  

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah
Lee, 43, plans to run for re-election, a spokesman told CQ Roll Call Tuesday via email. But, like many of his colleagues, he has not yet formally announced his plans.  

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
McCain, 78, told CQ Roll Call in December he was “most likely” running for re-election. A source close to him confirmed that is still the case, but the senator has not yet made a formal announcement.  

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
Moran, 60, has not officially announced his 2016 plans, but sources close to Moran said he plans to run for re-election. The senator is currently raising money and holding a large number of town hall meetings in his home state.  

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Murray, 64, has told The Seattle Times she plans to run for re-election. Her office confirmed this week that is still her plan.  

A lot of people say to me, ‘Gosh, why do you want to keep doing it?’ It’s a question that deserves to be answered. I’d really rather be in the middle of the debate fighting for the people of Washington state rather than yelling at my television,” Murray told her local newspaper  nearly a year ago.  

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
Murkowski, 57, plans to seek re-election, her office told CQ Roll Call via email on Wednesday.  

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
Portman, 59, announced in December he would seek re-election to the Senate. Earlier this month, he started staffing up , hiring a campaign manager, political director and finance director.  

Republicans also mention Portman as a potential pick for vice president. If the GOP’s nominee chooses Portman, Ohio law allows him to run for re-election on the same ballot.  

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“I plan on running,” Reid, 75, told reporters last week, something he has said multiple times in the past several months. Last year, he started shopping for campaign managers.  

Still, Reid has not formally kicked off his re-election campaign, and many operatives remain unconvinced that he will after an exercise accident .  

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii
Schatz, 42, who was appointed to serve out the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s term in 2012, defeated a House Democrat in a primary for the special election last year, and won a special election in November.  

His office confirmed he will seek a full Senate term in 2016.  

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
Schumer, 64, confirmed through an aide Wednesday he will seek re-election.  

Currently the No. 3 in Senate Democratic leadership, Schumer is a top contender to serve as his party’s leader when Reid steps aside.  

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
Scott, 49, confirmed Tuesday to CQ Roll Call that he plans to seek re-election, responding, “Yes, ma’am.”  

The senator was appointed to his seat in 2013, after former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., resigned. In 2014, he won a special election to complete DeMint’s term.  

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. “I’m in!” Shelby, 80, enthusiastically told CQ Roll Call Tuesday about his plan to run for a sixth term.  

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
Thune, 54, has not announced his plans for re-election, but told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that “people should assume that” he is leaning toward running. He said an announcement, and his final decision, would probably come “later this year.”  

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa.
Toomey, 53, “has every intention of running for re-election , but a formal announcement won’t come until much later,” said Mark Harris, a Toomey adviser and former campaign manager.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
His office did not return request for comment, but Democratic operatives said Wyden, 65, plans to run for re-election in 2016.


Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Rubio, 43, is seriously considering a presidential bid. If he goes for it, he has said he will not seek re-election to the Senate.  

That would leave a rare open seat  in the Sunshine State, sparking off what would likely be one of the marquee races of the cycle.  

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind. Coats, 71, who served in the 1990s and returned in 2011, said he remains undecided about running again, but he is getting ready just in case.  

“I’m doing everything else to prepare myself to run so it’ll be a flip [of] the switch,” Coats told CQ Roll Call. He said a final decision will likely come in early spring.


Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md.
Mikulski, 78, declined to comment through an aide about her re-election plans this week in the Capitol.  

But her Maryland colleague, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, told the Washington Post in November, “I am really 100 percent certain that she is going to run for re-election.”

It Depends …

Sen. David Vitter, R-La. Vitter, 53, is running for governor of Louisiana in 2015. If he wins, he’ll resign his Senate seat, and an appointed successor will hold the seat come 2016.  

If he loses — well, Vitter is not entertaining that possibility.  

“He’s focused on running for governor and winning that race,” a spokesman said.  

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Paul, 52, formally announced he would run for re-election in December.  

But Paul is also openly considering a presidential bid, and at the moment, Kentucky law prohibits him from running for both. Paul’s camp says it is confident he can do both , but for now, that situation is up in the air.


Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Boxer, 74, is the only senator to announce retirement so far.  

Her exit leaves a vacant Senate seat in the Golden State for the first time in more than two decades.  

Niels Lesniewski, Humberto Sanchez and Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report

Senate Absences Begin for 2016

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