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These Are the 2024 Senate Primaries to Watch as Democrats Risk Losing Their Majority

A historic battle for control of the Senate in November could come down to the quality of each party's nominees. In these five battleground primaries, Democrats and Republicans have a big choice

<p>AP Photo/Joe Maiorana</p> Bernie Moreno is running in Ohio

AP Photo/Joe Maiorana

Bernie Moreno is running in Ohio's Republican Senate primary

In today's Congress, razor-thin margins are the norm. Democrats currently control the Senate in a 51-49 split, and as it stands now, they're poised to lose some seats in November.

Republicans were hopeful that they could take control of the upper chamber during the 2022 midterms, but the predicted "red wave" never came — a disappointment that GOP officials later chalked up to candidate quality, as Republican nominees like Herschel Walker and Dr. Oz struggled to be taken seriously by swing voters.

Related: Ga. Senate Candidate Herschel Walker Invents His Own Science to Try and Explain Air Pollution

In 2024, with Democrats' majority in Senate as vulnerable as can be, party leaders in battleground states are focused on getting their most electable candidates nominated in the primaries, not their most famous. In Michigan and Ohio specifically, the competitive GOP primary races will directly impact whether Republicans are able to flip the Senate in November.

In other states — like the firmly blue California and firmly red Utah, where candidates are running to replace legendary lawmakers — the primaries could seal the deal on who heads to Washington next year. Those races are not expected to influence the overall makeup of Senate, and are more about deciding which candidate will best represent voters' interests in a polarized Congress for several years to come.

Plus, in New Jersey, the once-respected senior senator is under indictment, throwing Democrats' primary into disarray as his term concludes and his future looks uncertain.

Below, more on the five most competitive 2024 Senate primaries you should be tracking right now.

Michigan's GOP Senate Primary

<p>Sam Wolfe/Bloomberg via Getty; Michael Brochstein/Sipa via AP Images; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty</p> Mike Rogers, Peter Meijer, Justin Amash and Sandy Pensler are the top candidates in the Michigan GOP Senate primary

Sam Wolfe/Bloomberg via Getty; Michael Brochstein/Sipa via AP Images; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images; Bill Pugliano/Getty

Mike Rogers, Peter Meijer, Justin Amash and Sandy Pensler are the top candidates in the Michigan GOP Senate primary

Michigan will play one of the most important roles in determining whether Democrats can retain control of the Senate for another legislative session. As soon as Michigan's senior senator, Democrat Debbie Stabenow, announced her plans to retire after the current term, Republicans saw a viable path to flipping her long-held seat.

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin — who proved an invaluable asset to her party when she flipped a key congressional seat blue in 2018 — quickly jumped in the race to replace Stabenow in hopes that she can continue her streak of winning battlegrounds. With months till the Aug. 6 primary election, she appears the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, though, it remains unclear who might emerge as the party's nominee. As of now, numerous candidates are sharing the spotlight in Michigan's GOP Senate primary — though former Reps. Mike Rogers, Peter Meijer and Justin Amash, and businesswoman Sandy Nesler, are getting the most attention.

Rogers, 60, is a former FBI agent and ex-congressman who's been favored in the race thus far, with the endorsements of numerous sitting senators, including Iowa's Joni Ernst, Alabama's Katie Britt, West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito and Montana's Steve Daines. Though he's been critical of Trump before, he backed the former president's 2024 reelection campaign and is not-so-subtly hoping for a presidential endorsement to take him over the finish line.

Meijer, 36, dominated headlines days into his congressional tenure, when he was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, later calling it "career suicide before my career ever began." He was ousted from the role at the end of his first term, but his moderate positions on issues like LGBTQ rights and gun control could appeal to statewide swing voters if he can first convince his party to send him to the general election.

Related: Here's What Happened to the 10 House Republicans Who Voted for Trump's Second Impeachment

Amash, who is Palestinian American, jumped into the GOP Senate race late in February, after Michigan Democrats made clear to President Joe Biden in the primary election that they want to see stronger action to end violence in Gaza. The 43-year-old preceded Meijer in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, and was the only House Republican to vote for Trump's first impeachment, opting not to seek reelection in 2020 and subsequently leaving the Republican Party for a few years. As a late addition to the Senate race, it's so far unclear how his candidacy will influence the primary.

Then there's Pensler, 67, the founder of a private investment firm who has lost two federal elections before. Though not a frontrunner, he's made some waves with comments like how he wants to take "Senate back from the morons," and by echoing Trump's rhetoric on the southern border. He's already earned Vivek Ramaswamy's endorsement, and if he gets Trump's, his campaign could see a resurgence.

New Jersey's Democratic Senate Primary

<p>Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock; Shahar Azran/Getty Images</p> Bob Menendez's New Jersey Senate seat is being eyed by Democratic Rep. Andy Kim and first lady Tammy Murphy

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock; Shahar Azran/Getty Images

Bob Menendez's New Jersey Senate seat is being eyed by Democratic Rep. Andy Kim and first lady Tammy Murphy

New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator since 1972, and in all likelihood, that streak won't end any time soon. But the Garden State finds itself in a peculiar situation this year, as its senior senator — who is up for reelection — faces federal criminal charges related to bribery, corruption and acting as a foreign agent.

Sen. Bob Menendez, 70, pleaded not guilty to the charges and has refused to step down amid his criminal investigation (though he no longer chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Democrats fear that if he chooses to move forward with a reelection bid, he would be rejected by general election voters. His plans remain unclear as the June 4 primary approaches.

In the wake of Menendez's September indictment, popular Congressman Andy Kim, 41, quickly joined the Democratic primary race, saying that his state "deserves better" and that "we cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity." Among his campaign priorities are protecting the environment, defending reproductive rights and — fittingly — ending corruption in government.

Related: Rep. Andy Kim on Why He Helped Clean Up Debris After U.S. Capitol Riot: 'What Else Could I Do?'

Two months later, New Jersey's sitting first lady, Tammy Murphy, also joined the race. Murphy, who is married to Gov. Phil Murphy, was a lifelong Republican until 2014 and had a brief career in finance during her 20s before quitting to support her husband's career. The 58-year-old has made maternal health and gun safety a couple of the central focuses in her campaign.

While Murphy has a strong slate of endorsements and automatic establishment support as the wife of New Jersey's top Democrat, Kim so far seems to have more on-the-ground enthusiasm. Either would likely become the state's next U.S. senator if they win the nomination, but if Menendez decides to participate, the outcome is harder to predict.

Ohio's GOP Senate Primary

<p>AP Photo/Joe Maiorana; AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin; AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar</p> Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose and Matt Dolan are battling for the nomination in Ohio's Republican Senate primary

AP Photo/Joe Maiorana; AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin; AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose and Matt Dolan are battling for the nomination in Ohio's Republican Senate primary

In Ohio, three-term Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown finds himself in one of the nation's toughest reelection bids, aiming to defend his seat in a state that voted for Trump in the past two presidential elections. Sherrod, 71, is the last-surviving statewide Democratic official in Ohio, and while he's pulled off unlikely wins before — in 2018, he defeated his Republican challenger by 6.8 points while others in his party suffered losses — he will have to fight hard for another victory.

Three Republican candidates are vying for the opportunity to go head to head with Brown in November: businessman Bernie Moreno, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan.

Moreno, a 57-year-old blockchain executive, is running in the GOP primary as a political outsider with full support from the MAGA machine — a dozen sitting senators, plus several counties, endorsed him alongside Trump. (Newcomer J.D. Vance notably won the other Ohio Senate seat in 2022 after embracing the MAGA platform.) Moreno's popularity largely centers around his experience as a Colombian immigrant who lived out the American dream by opening his own car dealerships, though lawsuits alleging withheld overtime pay as well as gender, age and race discrimination have led critics to question his business practices.

Related: 'Hillbilly Elegy' Author J.D. Vance Defeats Democrat Tim Ryan in 2022 Ohio Senate Race, Preserving Republican Seat

LaRose, on the other hand, is positioned as a familiar Ohio official who served in the state Senate before running for secretary of state. The 44-year-old oversaw Ohio's 2020 presidential election, when Trump popularized false claims of nationwide voter fraud — and though LaRose gave little credence to the conspiracy theories that followed, he's also managed to stay on good terms with many election deniers. His most notable endorsement is Republican Rep. Mike Turner, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

Dolan, 59, is serving his second term in the Ohio state Senate, helping shape the state's budget as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Before that, the son of Cleveland Guardians owner Larry Dolan spent five years in the Ohio House of Representatives. Though his political positions are fairly in line with Trump's, Dolan has yet to embrace the MAGA label, instead casting himself as the problem-solver Ohio needs in D.C. His most notable endorsement is the National Sheriffs' Association.

Ohio's Republican Senate primary is scheduled for March 19, when Brown's challenger will be determined and the Ohio GOP's general election platform will become clearer.

California's Senate Primary

<p>Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images; David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images; Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images</p> Adam Schiff, Steve Garvey, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee will face off in the open California Senate primary

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images; David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images; Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Adam Schiff, Steve Garvey, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee will face off in the open California Senate primary

California has an open primary system, meaning candidates from all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. That means that, in theory, two Democrats could go head to head in November. The primary is scheduled for March 5 — Super Tuesday.

This year's Senate race is a historic one, as a swath of popular candidates face off to fill the seat Dianne Feinstein occupied for more than 30 years. Four major candidates are vying for the seat: Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, and Republican baseball star Steve Garvey.

Related: How the Assassination of Harvey Milk Put Dianne Feinstein in the National Spotlight

Schiff, who joined Congress in 2001 and most recently chaired the House Intelligence Committee, became a household name when he led the first impeachment trial for Trump. His Senate campaign has received some of the strongest endorsements from California leaders — including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former California Sen. Barbara Boxer — and recent polls suggest that the 63-year-old Democrat is the most likely to advance to the general election.

Porter, 50, has been a key figure among House Democrats, flipping a Republican seat blue in 2018 and fending off conservative challengers in her battleground district twice since. Despite earning a reputation as a fierce questioner in House hearings, the progressive has fewer endorsements than her Democratic competitors, though Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — her former law professor at Harvard — has stood firmly behind her high-stakes bid.

Related: Katie Porter Addresses Viral 'Art of Not Giving a F---' Photo: 'I Was Absolutely Reading That Book'

Lee is another progressive candidate with nearly 26 years of experience in the House. A former social worker, the 77-year-old has made the case that the Senate needs Black female representation, and that she's "never backed down from doing what's right." Lee has a large swath of endorsements, including full support from the Congressional Black Caucus and numerous California newspapers, though polls have shown her falling behind.

Then there's Garvey, 75, a former Dodgers and Padres baseball star who disrupted the race by joining as a Republican. His campaign has focused on broad "family issues," including education, public safety and the economy.

Polls have hinted that Porter and Garvey will be battling it out for the number two spot in the primaries. If Garvey wins, Schiff is likely to become the next senator; if Porter or Lee is chosen to go against Schiff, the general election will be more competitive. In any case, the House will lose three key Democrats who sacrificed their seats to run for Senate.

Utah's GOP Senate Primary

<p>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac; AP Photo/Rick Bowmer; Jack Gruber-USA TODAY</p> John Curtis, Brent Hatch, Brad Wilson and Trent Staggs are vying for the solid Republican Utah Senate seat after Mitt Romney's retirement

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images; AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac; AP Photo/Rick Bowmer; Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

John Curtis, Brent Hatch, Brad Wilson and Trent Staggs are vying for the solid Republican Utah Senate seat after Mitt Romney's retirement

Utah's next U.S. senator will likely be decided during the Republican primary — scheduled for June 25 — in which four major candidates are running to replace high-profile Sen. Mitt Romney, who decided to retire from Congress after just one term. The pack includes Rep. John Curtis, prominent attorney Brent Hatch, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs.

Curtis, 63, was the mayor of Provo before joining the U.S. House in 2017. He previously ran (unsuccessfully) for the state Senate in 2000, as a Democrat, and served as a chief executive for a shooting range manufacturer. Backed by two "conservative clean energy" organizations, he seems to have a good chance of pulling out a win, though a large number of undecided voters have made results uncertain.

Related: Mitt Romney Says a Once-Coveted Donald Trump Endorsement Is Now a 'Kiss of Death'

Hatch, 65, is best known as the son of the late Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who was in Congress for 42 years and succeeded by Romney. The younger Hatch's name recognition alone is noteworthy, as he runs on a platform centered around border security and addressing the national debt (he has avoided touching on social issues, saying the government shouldn't have a hand in conversations like LGBTQ rights).

Wilson, 55, is a real estate developer and former Utah state House member, who served as the state's House speaker from 2019 to 2023. He has the powerful endorsement of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, and a large cohort of state lawmakers.

And Staggs, 49, has served in city government since 2014, becoming mayor of Riverton in 2018. Despite earning the support of many Trump-aligned figures with a platform of "smaller government, safer families, and stronger economy," he has less name recognition in the state and so far appears an underdog in the primary.

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