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Farm State Senators Most Vulnerable in 2018 Election

The handicapping already is under way for the 2018 elections, and the three most vulnerable seats in the Senate are held by farm-state Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. “These contests all start as coin flips,” says political tip sheet Sabato’s Crystal Ball, partly because President Trump carried the states by huge margins.

Donnelly and Heitkamp serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, creating the possibility of election-year politics playing into development of the new farm bill. In an electoral oddity, seven of the 10 Democrats on the committee face reelection in 2018, while only one of the 11 Republicans is up. That’s Luther Strange of Alabama, newly appointed successor of Jeff Sessions, who is now attorney general. He’s considered a shoo-in in a special election to complete Sessions’ term to 2020.

Heitkamp and Donnelly won their first terms in 2012 by narrow margins. Four out of five senators seeking reelection since World War II have been victors, so incumbents start with a bit of an advantage. Heitkamp, the first Democratic senator to endorse Sonny Perdue at USDA, “appears to be in for another hard race,” says the Crystal Ball.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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