With Congress officially in recess until November, campaign season is in full swing and this fall brings no shortage of competition for control of the U.S. Senate.
Since Republicans need to net just six seats to regain the majority in the upper chamber, Senate races from Alaska to Colorado to New Hampshire command the attention of politicos, pundits and pollsters.
The New York Times, for example, currently gives Republicans a 59 percent chance of taking back the Senate.
Here’s a quick guide from The Daily Signal on the hopefuls campaigning to keep a seat, oust the incumbent or win a brawl over an open seat in nine of the hot Senate races.
Michigan has not had a Republican in the U.S. Senate for two decades. But with more than $21 million spent so far, this race could be the most expensive in state history. Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land so far has an advantage in outside spending.
Name, age, hometown: Gary Peters, 55, Pontiac, Mich.
Relevant background: Member, U.S. House of Representatives. Commissioner, Michigan Lottery. Lt. Cmdr., Navy Reserve
Education: Alma College, University of Detroit (finance), Wayne State University Law School, Michigan State University (philosophy)
Top priorities: Small business tax cuts, fair trade, budget and deficit reduction
Campaign quote: “Gary is committed to building an America where anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules can find a good-paying job, afford health care, live in a safe neighborhood, send their children to a good school, and retire with dignity.”
Fun fact: Well into his career, at 34 he joined the Navy Reserve and became an expert marksman with pistol and rifle.
Name, age, hometown: Terri Lynn Land, 56, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Relevant background: Michigan Secretary of State. Clerk, Kent County
Education: Bachelor of arts in political science, Hope College
Top priorities: Repeal and replace Affordable Care Act, reject pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, build Keystone XL Pipeline
Campaign quote: “I am ready to take my work ethic and experience as a mother, small businesswoman and public official to Washington to show them how government should work for the hardworking taxpayers.”
Fun fact: In high school, she served as a “scatter blitzer” for Gerald R. Ford’s presidential campaign and regularly attended Grandville City Council meetings as a student representative.
Alaska, both rural and highly urbanized, has 735,000 residents who are notoriously hard to poll. It has been a battleground for outside groups, which have spent millions seeking to influence national policy on issues from health care to environmental regulations.
Name, age, hometown: Mark Begich, 52, Anchorage, Alaska
Relevant background: Incumbent U.S. senator. Mayor of Anchorage. Member, Anchorage Assembly
Education: High school diploma (one of two U.S. senators without a college degree)
Top priorities: Increase Social Security benefits, expand health care for veterans, protect abortion rights
Campaign quote: “An independent leader in the Senate who works across party lines … already made an impact as a fierce advocate for Alaska.”
Fun fact: At 18, Begich got a business license to sell jewelry and began helping his mother manage real estate.
Name, age, hometown: Dan Sullivan, 49, Fairview Park, Ohio
Relevant background: Commissioner, Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Attorney general of Alaska. U.S. Marines
Education: Bachelor of arts in economics, Harvard University. Law degree, Georgetown University
Top priorities: Domestic energy production, gun rights, raising minimum wage in Alaska but not at federal level
Campaign quote: “Alaska needs a fighter again in the U.S. Senate.”
Fun fact: Sullivan was recalled to active duty with the Marines for a six-week tour in Afghanistan in July 2013.
North Carolina, with its conservative traditions, has a Republican-controlled state legislature. But liberals are making inroads. President Obama won the state in 2008 and Democrats claim 2.7 million registered voters to Republicans’ 2 million.
Name, age, hometown: Kay Hagan, 61, Shelby, N.C.
Relevant background: Incumbent U.S. senator. Member, North Carolina State Senate. Vice president, North Carolina National Bank
Education: Florida State University, Wake Forest University School of Law
Top priorities: Women’s rights, college affordability, deficit reduction
Campaign quote: “When North Carolinians need one of their own to advocate for them, they turn to Kay because of her common sense, independent, results-oriented record. She’s never been afraid to work hard to bridge partisan divides, and she always puts people before politics.”
Fun fact: Hagan is a former ballet dancer who, as an intern at the U.S. Capitol in the 1970s, operated an elevator used by senators.
Name, age, hometown: Thom Tillis, 54, Jacksonville, Fla.
Relevant background: Speaker, North Carolina House of Representatives. Partner, IBM Global Services. Product manager, Wang Laboratories
Education: Bachelor’s degree in technology management, University of Maryland
Top priorities: Repeal the Affordable Care Act, balance the budget, reject a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants
Campaign quote: “With a federal government in gridlock and even Republicans unable to get much accomplished, a dose of effective reform conservatism from Thom Tillis is just what Washington needs.”
Fun fact: Tillis volunteers in youth sports leagues.
Republican challenger Tom Cotton has served only one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now he is looking to unseat two-term incumbent Mark Pryor, whose father, David Pryor, was governor and represented Arkansas in Congress for 18 years.
Name, age, hometown: Mark Pryor, 51, Fayetteville, Ark.
Relevant background: Incumbent two-term senator. Arkansas attorney general
Education: University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Law School
Campaign quote: “Always puts Arkansas first.”
Fun fact: In 1996, Pryor was diagnosed with clear-cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that almost resulted in his losing a leg.
Name, age, hometown: Tom Cotton, 37, Dardanelle, Ark.
Relevant background: Member, U.S. House of Representatives. Consultant, McKinsey & Co. Captain, U.S. Army
Education: Harvard College, Harvard Law School
Top priorities: Affordable Care Act, government spending, taxes
Fun fact: At Harvard, Cotton kept a photo of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on his dorm room door.
Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic incumbent, was New Hampshire’s governor before being elected to the Senate. Republican Scott Brown, briefly Ted Kennedy’s successor as senator from Massachusetts, hopes to unseat Shaheen in a former Democratic stronghold that recently has been a swing state.
Name, age, hometown: Jeanne Shaheen, 67, St. Charles, Mo.
Relevant background: Incumbent one-term U.S. senator. Governor, 1997-2003. State senator
Education: Shippensburg University, University of Mississippi
Top priorities: Women’s rights, veterans, national security
Campaign quote: “Makes a difference.”
Fun fact: Shaheen is the only woman in U.S. history elected both governor and U.S. senator.
Name, age, hometown: Scott Brown, 55, Kittery, Maine
Relevant background: U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Massachusetts state representative. State senator
Education: Tufts University, Boston College Law School
Top priorities: Jobs, Affordable Care Act, taxes
Campaign quote: “Change for the better.”
Fun fact: On his first date with his wife, Gail Huff, Brown showed up wearing pink leather shorts.
If Republicans take back the Senate, the expectation is that Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, now minority leader, would become majority leader. But first he must get past Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. Although Republican presidential candidates won Kentucky in 2008 and 2012, it leans Democratic at the local level. The state’s coal industry means energy could prove to be a decisive issue.
Name, age, hometown: Alison Lundergan Grimes, 35, Maysville, Ky.
Relevant background: Kentucky secretary of state. Lawyer, Stoll Keenon Ogden
Education: Rhodes College, American University Washington College of Law
Top priorities: Women’s rights, energy, Social Security and Medicare
Fun fact: Grimes used to be a ballet dancer.
Name, age, hometown: Mitch McConnell, 72, Sheffield, Ala.
Relevant background: Minority leader, U.S. Senate. U.S. senator representing Kentucky since 1985
Education: University of Louisville, University of Kentucky College of Law
Top priorities: Energy, Affordable Care Act, gun rights
Fun fact: In 1984, the first year he ran for the Senate, McConnell was the only Republican challenger to win a Senate seat.
With the retirement this year of Sen. Tom Harkin, a veteran Democrat, Republicans see a good shot at picking up a seat in this historic swing state.
Name, age, hometown: Bruce Braley, 56, Brooklyn, Iowa
Relevant background: Member, U.S. House of Representatives since 2007. Lawyer since 1983
Education: Iowa State University, University of Iowa College of Law
Top priorities: Creating jobs, helping small businesses, raising the minimum wage to $10.10, protecting Social Security and Medicare
Fun fact: Braley met his wife, Carolyn, at an Eagles concert when they were students at Iowa State.
Name, age, hometown: Joni Ernst, 44, Montgomery County, Iowa
Relevant background: Iowa State Senate. Lt. Col., Iowa Army National Guard. Montgomery County auditor
Education: Iowa State University
Top priorities: Fiscal responsibility, “real and meaningful” health care reform, promoting a conservative social agenda
Fun fact: Ernst, a mother and grandmother, calls herself a motorcycle-riding Iowa farm girl.
Marijuana may be legal now in the Rocky Mountain State, but citizens of this resource-rich state also are concerned about their ability to produce energy — an issue an up-and-coming Republican is making his own.
Name, age, hometown: Mark Udall, 64, Tucson, Ariz.
Relevant background: Incumbent U.S. senator since 2009. Member, U.S. House of Representatives, 1999-2009
Education: Williams College
Top priorities: National security, clean energy, “bridging the partisan divide.”
Fun fact: Udall comes from an old political family. He is a first cousin of Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and second cousin of Sen. Mike Lee, (R-Utah). His dad, the late Rep. Mo Udall, ran for president in 1976.
Name, age, hometown: Cory Gardner, 40, Yuma, Colo.
Relevant background: U.S. House of Representatives. General counsel and legislative director to former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
Education: Colorado State University, law degree from University of Colorado Boulder
Top priorities: Increase energy efficiency, repeal Affordable Care Act, promote fiscal responsibility
Fun fact: Gardner converted from a Democrat as a youth to a Republican as an adult.
Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu has held on in this increasingly Republican state. Whether she’ll be able to defend her record of voting for and defending Obamacare is yet to be determined.
Name, age, hometown: Mary Landrieu, 58, New Orleans, La.
Relevant background: Incumbent U.S. senator since 1997. Louisiana state representative, 1980-1988. State treasurer, 1988-1996
Education: Louisiana State, Baton Rouge
Top priorities: Gulf Coast recovery, promoting abortion rights legislation, fixing Obamacare
Fun fact: At an LSU tailgate party last weekend, Landrieu assisted a young man who was doing a keg stand by pouring beer into his mouth.
Name, age, hometown: Bill Cassidy, 56, Chicago, Ill.
Relevant background: Member, U.S. House of Representatives since 2009. Physician. Teacher
Education: Louisiana State University, LSU Medical School
Top priorities: Build Keystone XL pipeline, control spending and lower taxes, reform health care
Fun fact: In 1998, Cassidy helped found the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic to provide uninsured area residents with access to free health care.