Gov. Steve Bullock’s decision to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Montana has some New Jersey implications.
The former presidential candidate puts the seat in play at a time when U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is effectively running for chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A University of Montana poll conducted last month has incumbent GOP U.S. Senator Steve Daines leading Bullock by nine points, 47-38. The poll has Daines and Bullock with about the same statewide approvals, with President Donald Trump more popular in Montana than the two of them.
In his recent bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bullock raised $52,964 from New Jersey donors.
His most prominent New Jersey donor was Pete Cammarano, a former Metuchen mayor who served as chief of staff to Gov. Phil Murphy from 2018 to 2019.
Republicans have a 53-45 majority in the Senate. Democrats are really at 47, since independents Bernie Sander (Vermont) and Angus King (Maine) organize with them.
Democrats need to pick four Senate seats to take control – or three, if there is a Democratic vice president next year.
Opportunities to flip the seat are tight: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Republicans are favored to pick up Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama and are making a play to oust Gary Peters in Michigan.
Bullock won gubernatorial races in red state Montana in 2012 and 2016. Former Gov. Chris Christie went to Montana in 2012 to campaign for Bullock’s Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Hill.
The leading candidate for the Demcoratic nomination to run against U.S. Senator Martha McSally in Arizona is West Orange native Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona).
A PPP poll released last week has Kelly leading McSally by five points, 47%-42%.
The math becomes slightly complicated if Sanders wins the presidency, since Vermont has a popular two-term Repubican governor. If Gov. Phil Scott, a moderate who endorsed Bill Weld for president over Donald Trump last month, gets re-elected, he could appoint a Republican to fill Sanders’ Senate seat until a special election is held three months later.
Menendez has been raising money for Demcorats to capture control of the U.S. Senate since last year.