Despite only being a few weeks into 2019, the rumor mill is already active regarding potential candidates for 2020 Senate seats. Three states offer three unique scenarios in this installment: the seat vacated by Sen. John McCain and currently being held by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ); the seat held by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who is running for reelection; and the seat left open by the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas.
Expect competitive primaries in each state and the dynamics to change dramatically between now and this time next year. For now, here’s the latest on rumored candidates in Arizona, Georgia, and Kansas:
Arizona continues to be a hotbed for candidate rumors. The latest involves the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), Mark Kelly. Last week, the group 314 Action announced it’s launching an effort to “draft” Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, into the Senate race. The group, which backs candidates with scientific backgrounds, said it is putting a “six-figure” digital ad buy into the effort.
Should he win the nomination, Kelly would face Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who was appointed to fulfill the remainder of Sen. John McCain’s term after Sen. Jon Kyl stepped down.
Both Kelly and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who represents part of Phoenix, have met with the Democratic Senatorial Committee (DSCC) about potentially running. Gallego said he would make a decision about running for the seat “in the coming weeks.”
And speaking of McCain, his former chief of staff, Grant Woods, is still considering a run as well. Woods previously served as Arizona’s attorney general as a Republican in the 1990s but would run for this seat as a Democrat. He, too, has met with the DSCC.
Speaking of taking meetings with the DSCC, 2018 failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who serves as chair of the DSCC, about potentially challenging Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in 2020.
Abrams “electrified Democrats,” according to CNN, but she fell 2 points short to Brian Kemp, who was sworn in as governor earlier this month. She lingered in sour grapes territory longer than most losing candidates, openly debating legal challenges, but ultimately backed down a couple weeks after Election Day.
Abrams might not be able to clear the field, however, if she runs. The mayor of Columbus, Georgia, Theresa Tomlinson, is also rumored to be seriously considering a Senate bid. She might find it difficult competing with Abrams, who established a national fundraising network and brought real star power to her campaign by having Oprah Winfrey campaign for her.
Pressure continues to grow on President Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to jump into the Kansas Senate race. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced he’s retiring at the end of his term, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is eager to keep the seat in Republican hands. NRSC Chair, Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), touted Pompeo during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I can conceive of no one who I’d rather work with in the United States Senate from the state of Kansas than Mike Pompeo,” he said.
During a conversation with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, Pompeo said his “singular focus” is keeping Americans safe in his current role as secretary of state.
Republicans are eager to back a candidate who can win. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost the 2018 gubernatorial race and is seriously considering a bid himself. Kobach lost what many thought was a winnable race for Republicans thanks to a series of gaffes.
Per Fox News, there is a whole host of Republicans who might jump in the race: “Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, former Gov. Jeff Colyer, Rep. Roger Marshall, former Rep. Kevin Yoder and Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, are among other possible contenders.”