DemDaily: Democrats Go Toe-to-Toe in Maryland Senate Race

May 8, 2024

Next Tuesday's May 14 Democratic primary for the Maryland US Senate race has become the most closely-watched and contentious intra-party contest of 2024.

In the heavily blue Free State, which Joe Biden won with 65% in 2020, the retirement of three-term Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, announcement last May, set off a frenzy of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and three-term Congressman David Trone (CD-6), who jumped in within a week of Cardin's announcement, are the clear frontrunners in a field of ten contenders for the Democratic nomination.

The surprise February entry of former two-term Republican Governor Larry Hogan into the Senate race, however, considerably disrupted the dynamics of the historically safe Democratic seat -- putting it into play under a national spotlight when one upset could cause the loss of Democrats' tenuous hold on the US Senate.

For some, it also shifted the priority of the Democratic primary to which candidate has the best chance of defeating Hogan.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, the winner of the Democratic primary is often the presumed general election winner. Democrats hold both US Senate seats, seven of the eight congressional seats, the Governor's mansion, and supermajorities in both chambers of the Maryland legislature.

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Alsobrooks, who hopes to make history as Maryland's first Black Senator, served two terms as state attorney for the affluent majority-Black Prince George’s County before being elected Prince George’s County Executive in 2018 after winning a high-profile primary.

She came out the gate swinging with the early endorsements of popular Governor Wes Moore, Maryland's junior US Senator Chris Van Hollen, and state congressional delegation members Steny Hoyer (CD-5), Jaime Raskin (CD-8), John Sarbanes (CD-03), Kweisi Mfume, (CD-7) and Glenn Ivy (CD-4).

Alsobrooks has also secured the lion's share of endorsements from local and state elected officials, along with the national endorsement of EMILY's List and the Congressional Black Caucus.

An April 7-10 OpinionWorks survey of likely voters, sponsored by the Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore/WBFF, showed Trone leading the primary with 48%, followed by Alsobrooks with 29% and six other candidates with 2% or less (MOE: ± 4.0%). According to an April 8-10 Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group survey for the Alsobrooks campaign, Trone's lead over Alsobrooks narrows to 43% to 40% (MOE: ± 4.0%) in a head-to-head match up.

Trone, who represents the Frederick-based sixth congressional district, is co-owner of Total Wine & More, the country's largest private wine retailer, where he served as president until December 2016.

He was elected to Congress in 2018 with 59% of the vote and was reelected with the same percentage in 2020. Although redistricting reapportioned his safely Democratic seat into a Republican-leaning district in 2022, Trone won the seat with 54.8% of the vote.

Trone has the endorsement of nearly 70 of his US House colleagues, including Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (CD-02), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY), House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (MA) and House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (CA).

Both Alsobrooks and Trone have received major union endorsements.

Fundraising
Trone said that because he does not accept contributions from PACs, lobbyists, and corporations he would be able to “listen to the people of Maryland, not special interests," is self-funding his campaign, putting in $41.77 million of the $42.42 million raised as of the March 31 First Quarter fundraising report.

Alsobrooks reported $7.78 million raised as of the First Quarter 2024 fundraising report, with approximately ly $1.9 million cash on hand. Alsobrooks touts her traditional, grassroots fundraising in contrast to Trone, saying in an April debate, “Money cannot buy you love, and it really cannot buy you Maryland.”

Hogan, who teased a presidential run for the 2024 GOP nomination, reported raising $3.07 million through three separate campaign entities since entering the race three months ago and has $1.78 million cash on hand.

Media Wars
Trone, who launched his first major television ad buy within days of entering the race, has spent $38 million in ad buys -- accounting for 89% of the ad spending in the Senate race to date.

Alsobrooks, who released her first ad in February, has spent $2.6 million on ad buys -- less than 7% of Trone's total. Her most recent ad, dropped April 24 is a series of statewide and local endorsements, opening with Moore saying, “We know Maryland,” then turning to VanHollen who says, “And we know Angela is the Democrat who will win.” The ad closes with Alsobrooks standing in front of dozens of endorsing lawmakers.

With little ideological difference between the two frontrunners, the negative attacks lean toward the more personal.

Trone was the first to go negative, airing an ad last weekend featuring Black state and local officials from Prince George’s who support him, with one lawmaker arguing that the "U.S. Senate is not a place for training wheels."

The ad, which also suggested Alsobrooks supporters are less than top billing, was met with immediate backlash, prompting a letter from over 650 Black women, including former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, who said the comments were "not only disparaging and dismissive but also echoes tones of misogyny and racism." Trone's campaign later edited the comments out of the ad.

Trone defends his position, saying, “We cannot let Maryland be the reason we lose the United States Senate.”

"This is so much bigger than any individual's ego or career ambitions. This really is about the future of the country. We cannot afford to lose a Senate seat," - Congressman Jaime Raskin, Axios 5/5/24

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Ballotpedia, Axios, Washington Post, Maryland Matters, Ad Impact, The Hill, Baltimore Sun

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