Tactical Voter’s Guide to US Senate

I suspect that my best contribution to the 2018 Midterms was the Tactical Voter’s Guide to California. In an open primary where you can end up with two Republicans on the general election ballot, it was important to identify Democrat front-runners early, so I did the homework: I made 27 recommendations that filled the gaps in CDP endorsements sheet, and I was only wrong only about 3 (https://medium.com/@angdraug/revisiting-the-2018-tactical-voters-guide-to-california-b7c43189bbdd). Many friends thanked me for making their down-ballot votes better informed.

In 2020, we are facing a similar problem. For the presidential election to make any difference, Democrats must also hold the House and take back the Senate. Without that, there won’t be any Supreme Court or federal justice nominations, no progressive laws, only more obstructionism and treason.

The Senate part is going to be difficult, harder even than taking back the presidency. It’s not enough to just vote in your local races anymore, especially if you live in a state like California that doesn’t have a US Senate election this year. If you want your country back, you have to get engaged with elections in all battleground states.

The formula is simple. If your family income is above median ($70,000 in California, $60,000 across US), set aside 3% of it to political donations this year. If you don’t earn that much, you might make more of an impact donating 60 hours of your time (3% of 50 work weeks) instead. If you can afford to do more, do more. And don’t spend it all in one place, spread it out. Make sure you donate both before and after the primaries where applicable.

Ballotpedia is always a good starting point to find races where you can make the most difference: https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Senate_elections,_2020

Vulnerable incumbent Democrats:
- Doug Jones (Alabama)
- Gary Peters (Michigan)
- Tina Smith (Minnesota)
- Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire)
- Mark Warner (Virginia)

No further research needed on these states, please help the Democrat incumbents, they all need it and we need all of them to keep their seats.

Vulnerable incumbent Republicans:
- Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
- Cory Gardner (Colorado)
- David Perdue (Georgia)
- Joni Ernst (Iowa)
- Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)
- Bill Cassidy (Louisiana)
- Susan Collins (Maine)
- Cindy Hyde-Smith (Mississippi)
- Steve Daines (Montana)
- Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
- Mike Rounds (South Dakota)
- John Cornyn (Texas)
- Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia)

Other critical Senate elections:
- Special election in Arizona is D+2
- Special election in Georgia (which went from R+14 in 2014 to R+5 in 2016 to R+0 in 2018) means both Georgia Senate seats are in play
- Open seat in Kansas where Republican incumbent Pat Roberts isn’t running
- Open seat in New Mexico where Democrat incumbent Tom Udall isn’t running
- Open seat in Tennessee where Republican incumbent Lamar Alexander isn’t running
- Open seat in Wyoming where Republican incumbent Mike Enzi isn’t running


As of this writing, no Democratic candidate filed to run against Dan Sullivan. And that's a damn shame, Alaska is not that red. When Sullivan took this seat from former mayor of Anchorage Mark Begich in 2014, he did it with a margin of only 2.2% and didn’t get to 50% of the votes. And in 2016 Lisa Murkowski got even less, 44.4%. Filing deadline is June 1, I really hope either Begich or some other Democrat runs, 2020 is our best chance to take that seat back. Somebody, please!


Former astronaut Mark Kelly (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mek-website) is running against Martha McSally and is already leading in the polls. His Democratic primary challengers are a Green Party transplant and two nobodies. Kelly, his wife Gabby Giffords, and his twin brother Scott are good people who served this country all their lives. Help Mark.


Democratic primary on June 30 is crowded by ten candidates, but only one of them has enough of a public record to be viable: John Hickenlooper (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/hickenlooperforco-web-donate), former state governor and before that mayor of Denver. He had the good sense to bow out of the presidential primary early, and he has really good chances in his home state.


The stakes of the Georgia race are doubled this year, and the way this state has been trending from red to purple means both Republican incumbents are in trouble. The regular election has seven Democrats registered to run, the most prominent is Sarah Riggs Amico (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sarahforgeorgia), who in 2018 ran for Lieutenant Governor alongside with Stacey Abrams and got 1,828,566 votes. Ballotpedia lists eight Democrats running in the special election, the only one with a public service record is former DA and state senator Ed Tarver (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tarver-for-senate-1).


Five Democrats are trying to unseat Joni “we did it to sink Biden” Ernst in Iowa. Democratic primary in this race is going to be messy. None of the five contenders held a public office before, and only one has a record of public service: a retired three-star admiral Michael Franken (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/franken-for-iowa-1).

The leader in Democratic endorsements Theresa Greenfield was criminally charged with election misconduct after her campaign manager falsified signatures on her candidate petition in 2018. Kimberly Graham has only been endorsed by two of the Bernie Sanders shadow PACs, and everything I said about Justice Democrats (https://medium.com/@angdraug/no-country-for-purity-ponies-1c199c0c0cc7) applies the same to the lot of them. This makes Michael Franken our best bet.


The most viable Democratic candidate in Kansas is former Republican Barbara Bollier (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bb4ks-web). She was one of the few good ones: in July 2018 she endorsed Democrats for Governor and US House and immediately paid for that by being stripped of her committee chair position. In December 2018, she switched parties. Her legislative record is focused on health care and is fairly progressive. Most importantly, unlike Robert Tillman who has been consistently losing since 2012, Bollier won every election she participated in since 2010.


With Mitch McConnell’s job on the line, this is bound to be the most watched Senate race of 2020. Everybody and their grandmother have endorsed former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/am-website), the only endorsement to the contrary from—of f***ing course!—a Bernie shadow PAC only further confirms my determination that we need to pour our hopes and our resources into McGrath’s campaign.


Finally, a state with only one Democrat running for Senate (understandable considering that it is an open “jungle” primary): community activist Antoine Pierce (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/antoine-pierce-1).


Same deal as KY: the most unpopular Senator Susan Collins is about to lose her job; everybody has endorsed the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gideon2020); and once again Bernie shadow PACs endorsed someone else.


The Democratic primary in Mississippi was won with 93.1% of the vote by former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/espy-191105_website).


Four of the Democratic candidates in Montana have withdrawn and endorsed former professor and current governor Steve Bullock (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/rb4sb).

New Mexico

Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Luján (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/brlhomepage) will be defending Tom Udall’s seat. His lone primary challenger is yet another Bernie PAC supplicant, this time with a history of alleged embezzlement and sexual harassment and with as of this writing no endorsements and no contribution records submitted to FEC. Luján is a veteran of progressive politics, support him.

North Carolina

Former state senator Cal Cunningham (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/cal-cunningham-for-us-senate-1), who also got all the endorsements except—notice the pattern?—Bernie shadow PACs, has won the Democratic primary.

South Dakota

Two Democrats running for Senate in South Dakota are both good people with different strengths. Personally, it is a tough choice, but tactically, I have to recommend the one who has a record of winning elections: Dan Ahlers (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/4progress).


Here we have a unique situation with both DSCC and Bernie shadow PACs endorsing the same candidate, the one who filed first: attorney and Army veteran James Mackler. I am going to trust Bernie’s analysis of which Democrat is most likely to lose over Schumer’s eagerness to simplify Democratic primaries: I don’t think yet another bland white man stands a chance in Tennessee. I think Marquita Bradshaw, an environment and labor activist from Memphis (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/marquitaussenate), has a much better shot.


Democratic primary in Texas has sent two candidates to the primary run-off scheduled to May 26. Decorated Air Force veteran MJ Hegar (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mjh_website) was endorsed by DSCC and got 1.5x more votes than the second best candidate, and the Bernie shadow PACs endorsee (of course there was one) finished seventh.

West Virginia

The race for Capito’s seat will be a tough one, but the choice between Democratic primary candidates is easy: there’s a repeat loser, a Berniecrat, and Army veteran and state senator Richard Ojeda (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/vote-ojeda-2020-1)


By the elimination (one candidate is not a resident of Wyoming and another is endorsed by Bernie shadow PACs) we arrive at the only viable candidate for Mike Enzi’s seat: UW ecology professor Merav Ben-David (https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bendavid2020-1).

I have opinions, and I am not afraid to use them.

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