That’s how many U.S. Senate races will be held this year.
The number increased by one last week, when Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn said he’d resign at the end of the current 113th Congress, about two years before the expiration of his term in January 2017. Oklahoma is so strongly Republican-leaning that the party shouldn’t have any problem retaining the seat.
Republicans are the defending party in 15 of the 36 contests, including two each in Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Democrats control 55 of the 100 Senate seats, so Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win a majority. The Democrats are defending 21 seats.
Republicans are strongly favored to win the South Dakota seat of retiring Sen. Tim Johnson and are slightly favored to win the seats that Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Max Baucus of Montana are leaving open, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Sen. Mark Pryor is in a tossup race and an open Democratic-held seat in Michigan also has no clear favorite, according to the report. Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina are rated as “Leans Democratic.”
Democrats have a real shot at just two Republican-held seats. One is in Kentucky, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also faces opposition in the Republican primary. The other is in Georgia, where Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, awaits the winner of a crowded Republican primary.