Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said Wednesday that there are plenty of Democrats looking to run for Senate in 2022, but it’s “too early to speculate” whether the party’s campaign arm will take sides in upcoming primaries the way it did in 2020.
“We have a lot of folks who are interested, a lot of really top-quality candidates who are interested in running,” said Peters, who was named the new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman last week. “We'll see how everything plays out in the weeks and months ahead.”
The campaign committee has not shied away from weighing in on competitive races in recent election cycles. In 2020, the DSCC endorsed 15 candidates ahead of their primaries and almost all of them won nomination. Despite many candidates raising staggering amounts to make races competitive even in longtime GOP strongholds, Democrats netted just three additional seats.
“If you have great candidates that are running, it'll be incumbent on them to build the support necessary to win,” Peters said of committee endorsements. “I think you have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Every election cycle is different … We don’t know what 2022 looks like yet. It’s way too early.”
The 2022 midterms could be a difficult election cycle for Democrats, since the president’s party typically loses congressional seats in the first midterm of his administration. But Peters was optimistic about his party’s prospects, and said his top priority as DSCC chairman is protecting Democratic incumbents.
He noted that four senators in competitive states — Arizona’s Mark Kelly, Georgia’s Raphael Warnock, Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan — are all running in states President Joe Biden won in November.
"I think what people in this country are looking for is steady leadership. They're looking for us to provide the leadership necessary to get through this pandemic and have the economy recover," Peters said. "Certainly President Joe Biden has focused on that, and is moving aggressively to put in place a COVID relief package that is desperately needed by folks all across the country, and we'll certainly be running on that next year."
Early ratings issued Jan. 8 by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales deemed races in eight states as competitive in 2022. Along with the four held by Democratic senators cited by Peters, there are four held by Republicans in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Democrats will be defending a razor thin Senate majority in 2022, with the chamber currently divided between 50 Republicans and 50 senators who caucus with Democrats, and Vice President Kamala Harris able to vote to break any ties.
Harris’ new role also means there are currently no Black women serving in the Senate. Asked whether diversity will factor into candidate recruitment, Peters said, “Diversity is always important … Certainly our candidates will reflect the communities that they represent.”
Peters said some potential candidates have been spurred to run after the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol, when a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters, fueled by lies that the 2020 election was stolen, stormed the building.
“In general, what we're seeing happening in this country is actually a reason why so many Democrats want to run,” Peters said. “They realized that we're a pivotal time for the history of this country.”
“We have Republicans that basically parrot the statements made by Trump and continually put out false information and continue to stoke conspiracy theories,” Peters said. “And I think many folks realize that it's time for us to stand up and say this democracy is too important to let folks damage it.”
House Democrats have already tried to leverage those conspiracy theories on the campaign trail. This week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched an early round of television ads, tying vulnerable House Republicans to conspiracy theories such as the QAnon, which alleges that Trump is fighting a “deep state” of child sex traffickers and cannibals.
Asked about the DCCC ads and whether Senate Democrats would deploy the same tactics, Peters said, “I would expect Senate candidates to run their race based on what's best for their state and issues that are important to people in the states.”
“It's always been my experience that if candidates are talking about the challenges that people in their state are facing, and offer substantive solutions to those problems, then they're successful at the polls,” Peters said. “My view has always been that good policy is really good politics.”