The Races to Watch 

These are the down-ticket races most likely to impact environmental policy.

The presidency is by far the most important office on the line, but there are a host of down-ticket rates that will shape energy and environmental policy over the next few years. I’ve included links to previous posts that discuss the environmental views of the candidates in more detail.

The Senate

Control of the Senate will be crucial to the next President.  Democrats seem to have their best shot at flipping Arizona, Colorado, and Maine. Given that Republicans are likely to flip Alabama, Democrats need to gain at least one more Senate seat.  Iowa and North Carolina are considered their best hopes, but they also have some chance of picking up South Carolina, one of the two Georgia Senate elections, or Montana.

Beyond those seats, a big Blue wave might tip one or two others where Republicans are now favored, such as Kansas or the other Georgia seat. Those races aren’t likely to determine control of the Senate, but they could help determine the margin if Democrats do win control.


Most gubernatorial elections are in the off-year election, but there are a couple of races to watch this time in Montana and North Carolina.

State Legislatures

We’ve seen how much of an impact state governments can have on environment/energy policy in the past four years.  State legislative races are low profile, but Democrats could gain control of at least one branch of the legislature in some key states. Democrats could gain control of the legislature in these states:

  • Arizona: Democrats need to pick up two seats for a majority in the state House and three seats in the Senate.
  • Minnesota: Democrats need to win two seats for a majority in the state Senate. They won control of the state House in 2018.

There are several other states where Democrats are close to taking one house of the legislature. That wouldn’t allow Democrats to legislate, but it would give them a seat at the table. In particular, it would give them veto power over bad legislation and the ability to block political gerrymandering by the other party.

  • Iowa: Democrats would need to pick up four seats in the Iowa state House.
  • North Carolina: Democrats need to pick up six seats for control of the state House.
  • Wisconsin: Democrats are three seats away from a majority in the Wisconsin state Senate. That would give the Democratic governor a lot more maneuvering room.
  • Michigan: Democrats need four wins to flip the Michigan Senate. As in Wisconsin, that would be a boost to the Democratic governor.
  • Pennsylvania: Democrats are five seats from a majority in the Senate. They might also conceivably win a majority in the House, but that’s a heavier lift.

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Given the surge of mail-in ballots this time, we may not know the outcomes of many of these elections until days after November 3. If there are recounts or serious court challenges, the uncertainty could last for weeks.  All the more reason, whichever side you favor, to be sure and vote!

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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