- The new Congress, which begins this week, will have five politically-split Senate delegations.
- Maine, Montana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin will have one senator from each party.
- The small number of split delegations reflects the increased polarization of American politics.
Thirty years ago, it was commonplace for states to send politically-split Senate delegations — composed of both Democrats and Republicans — to the upper chamber.
While many states were firmly in red or blue columns on the presidential level, voters across the country were more willing to back candidates from a different party for other races. So, despite North Dakota’s conservative lean, voters reelected Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad to multiple terms in the 1990s and 2000s, even while backing GOP presidential nominees by large margins.
And as recently as January 2019, Florida — which has become difficult terrain for Democrats in recent years — had one Democratic senator and one Republican senator. (In November 2018, then-GOP Gov. Rick Scott narrowly defeated then-Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who was seeking a fourth term in office.)
But in the new Congress, which begins this week, only five states will have split Senate delegations: Maine, Montana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Such a figure reflects a sharp decline from the 27 split delegations that existed from 1979 to 1980, per the Pew Research Center, during an era where it was not unusual for Democrats to represent rural states and for Republicans to hold Senate seats in states like Illinois and New York.
With Democrats holding a slim 51-49 majority and the country sharply polarized on numerous issues, many of the lawmakers from states with split delegations have some of the most bipartisan records in the upper chamber.
Here are the compositions of the split Senate delegations:
Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Independent Sen. Angus King
Collins — who has served in the Senate since 1997 — has worked with Democrats on a range of issues over the decades and also voted in support of three Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated by Democratic presidents. Despite Maine’s blue tint, Collins has been able to secure support from many Independents and Democrats each time she’s been up for reelection, including in 2020, when President Joe Biden carried the state overall (while losing the state’s rural 2nd congressional district and thus ceding one electoral vote to then-President Donald Trump).
King defeated Collins in Maine’s 1994 gubernatorial election and served in office from 1995 to 2003 before winning his first term in the Senate in 2012.
Both members have sought to forge bipartisan consensus in the chamber, and strongly supported the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that sailed through the Senate and was signed into law by Biden last year. Collins was among the bipartisan group of 10 senators who helped craft the details of the bill.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines
Tester was first elected to the Senate in 2006 and secured reelection in both 2012 and 2018. The farmer and moderate Democratic lawmaker has not yet decided if he will run for reelection and previously said he would make a decision about his political future during the holidays.
While Tester has generally backed the Biden administration on most of their biggest priorities, he is known to show an independent streak. As chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, his work on the panel has allowed him to work across the aisle in pushing for reforms.
Daines, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, will soon assume the mantle as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, seeking to elect more GOP members in a year where his Democratic home state colleague may run for reelection.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Sen.-elect JD Vance
Brown has carved out a political brand as a populist Democrat who fights for workers’ rights, a message that has appealed to voters of all stripes in Ohio, which has become less of a bellwether and more Republican in recent cycles. The three-term lawmaker was excited at the prospect of Rep. Tim Ryan joining him in the upper chamber, but the congressman fell short to Republican JD Vance despite running what many said was one of the strongest Senate campaigns this year.
The senator is up for reelection in 2024.
Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and venture capitalist, will succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman this week.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito
Manchin is perhaps the nation’s most recognizable moderate Democrat, having single-handedly scuttled Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in December 2021. From his days as West Virginia’s secretary of state and governor to his tenure in the Senate, Manchin has looked out for his state and been a firm Democrat while also frequently working with Republicans — much to the frustration of many liberals who remain wary of the lawmaker.
But Manchin’s political formula has helped him thrive in deep-red West Virginia. While Trump won the state by 42 points over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Manchin won reelection by 3 points just two years later.
Manchin has not yet announced if he will run again in 2024.
Capito was first elected to the Senate in 2014 and has worked well with Manchin during her time in the upper chamber — an important plus for one of the nation’s least populous states.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin
The Badger State is often home to some of the closest races in the entire country.
Both Trump and Biden won the state by less than 1 point in 2016 and 2020, respectively.
And Johnson was reelected to a third term last November over Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by exactly 1 point (50.5%-49.5%).
Baldwin, who previously served in the House for 14 years, has been successful in cracking the state’s partisan divide, winning her first Senate term in 2012 by 5.5% before securing reelection in 2018 by nearly 11 points.
The two are ideological opposites, as Baldwin has a liberal voting record while Johnson is a staunch conservative. But Wisconsin voters seem to prefer the split.