A Guide to the Women Who Could Help Flip the Senate Blue in 2020


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In 2018, Democrats delivered a blue wave, taking control of the House of Representatives in a rebuke to President Trump’s win two years earlier. Now, in 2020, eyes are on the U.S. Senate, where Democrats would either need a net gain of four Senate seats or three Senate seats plus the presidency in order to have a majority. (In the Senate, the vice president casts any tie-breaking votes.) While defending already-blue seats is essential for the party, they’re also looking to potentially flip Republican seats come November.

Below, a look at the Democratic women running for Republican-held Senate seats this year, plus how the races are looking so far.

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Amy McGrath

State: Kentucky

Who she’s up against: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The race: In one of the most-watched Senate races of the year, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath will be going up against “Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief” Mitch McConnell, who’s held his seat in the Senate since 1985. McGrath, a moderate, was long seen as the Democratic pick for the race, though she then faced a competitive primary challenger in state Rep. Charles Booker.

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 6) shows McConnell up by five points.

Sara Gideon

State: Maine

Who she’s up against: Sen. Susan Collins

The race: In the lead up to the state’s Democratic primary, Sara Gideon was seen as the most likely challenger for this 2020 Senate race. Gideon is a state representative and serves as Maine’s Speaker of the House. Some voters have been eyeing Collins’ seat ever since she cast a deciding vote during Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 Supreme Court confirmation.

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 18) shows Gideon up by five points.

Theresa Greenfield

State: Iowa

Who she’s up against: Sen. Joni Ernst

The race: Joni Ernst, a military veteran, is finishing out her first term in the Senate and now faces a challenger in Theresa Greenfield, who has worked as an urban planner as well as in real estate. This is Greenfield’s first time running for office, and she’s already proven to be an impressive fundraiser, bringing in a record-breaking $6 million in the second fundraising quarter of the year.

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 18) shows Greenfield up by three points.

MJ Hegar

State: Texas

Who she’s up against: Sen. John Cornyn

The race: Two years after Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to Ted Cruz, the attention is back on the Texas Senate. This time, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is trying to unseat incumbent John Cornyn, who Rolling Stone called “one of the Texas good ol’ boys, with plenty of campaign cash and powerful friends.”

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 17) shows Cornyn up by seven points.

Marquita Bradshaw

State: Tennessee

Who she’s up against: Bill Hagerty

The race: Marquita Bradshaw already delivered one upset this year when she won the state’s Democratic primary, becoming the first Black woman to get a major party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, according to the New York Times. Bradshaw, an environmental justice advocate, will be going up against Bill Hagerty, who was tapped by President Trump to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. (Trump also endorsed him in the Republican primary.) The two will be fighting for soon-to-be-retired Lamar Alexander’s Senate seat.

What experts are saying: The New York Times reports that Bradshaw “faces an uphill climb” with Hagerty, noting that the state hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in 30 years.

Barbara Bollier

State: Kansas

Who she’s up against: Rep. Roger Marshall

The race: Sen. Pat Roberts announced his retirement back in January 2019, leaving a seat open for Kansas in the November election. In the race are state Senator Barbara Bollier and Rep. Roger Marshall; Roberts endorsed Marshall in the Republican primary, while Bollier, a former Republican who left the party in 2018, managed to break a state fundraising record this year.

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 12) shows Marshall up by two points.

Paulette Jordan

State: Idaho

Who she’s up against: Sen. Jim Risch

The race: In 2018, Paulette Jordan entered Idaho’s gubernatorial race, vying to become the nation’s first Native American governor. Now, she’s back, this time in the state’s Senate race, facing incumbent Jim Risch. He is currently chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and tends to vote in line with President Trump.

What experts are saying: Risch is seen as the “heavy favorite,” according to The Hill, which reports Risch won 65 percent of the vote when he ran for a second term in 2014.

Abby Broyles

State: Oklahoma

Who she’s up against: Sen. Jim Inhofe

The race: Journalist and attorney Abby Broyles is running against incumbent Jim Inhofe, who’s held his seat in the Senate since 1994. Prior to the Senate, Inhofe served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Oklahoma House and Senate, and as the mayor of Tulsa. He’s currently the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While the race has been rated as “solid Republican,” Broyles has been reported to be “the biggest challenge to Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat in over a decade.”

What polls are showing: The latest poll (as of Aug. 6) shows Inhofe up by 16 points.

Paula Jean Swearengin

State: West Virginia

Who she’s up against: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

The race: You may already recognize Paula Jean Swearengin from her 2018 Senate primary race featured in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House. While Swearengin didn’t win that year, this time around she’s made it past the primary stage and will be going up against incumbent Shelley Moore Capito in the general election. Moore Capito has been in office since 2015.

What experts are saying: According to The Hill, the state’s Senate race is “not anticipated to be competitive” and expects Moore Capito to be marching “toward a second term.”

Merav Ben-David

State: Wyoming

Who she’s up against: Cynthia Lummis

The race: With Sen. Mike Enzi retiring at the end of his term this year, a Wyoming Senate seat has opened up, drawing a race between wildlife ecologist Merav Ben-David and former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis. Ben-David has spent much of her career as a scientist and educator at the University of Wyoming, and prior to serving in the U.S. House, Lummis was a state senator and the Wyoming state treasurer.

What experts are saying: Vox reported that whoever won the Republican Senate primary was “heavily favored” to win in November, noting that the state hasn’t elected a Democrat Senator since 1970.

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