DemDaily: Hogan Shakes Up Maryland Senate Race

February 13, 2024

The Maryland US Senate race to succeed retiring three-term Senator Ben Cardin (D), presumed to be a safe Democratic seat, has just heated up with former Republican Governor Larry Hogan's entry into the race.

Democrats control the US Senate by a 51-49 majority. 34 of the 100 US Senate seats are up for election in 2024, with Democrats defending 23 seats, including three Independents that caucus with the Democrats. Republicans are defending 11 seats.

Cardin's retirement, announced May 1, set off a frenzy of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the heavily blue Free State, which Joe Biden won by 33 points over Donald Trump in 2020.

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.

The exception was the election of Hogan, a self-proclaimed moderate, as the state's 62nd governor.

A real estate investor and developer, Hogan unsuccessfully challenged Congressman Steny Hoyer (D) in 1992 in the fifth congressional district, which Hogan's father represented from 1969 to 1975. He served in Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich's administration from 2003 to 2007 before launching nonprofit anti-tax advocacy organization Change Maryland in 2011, which served as a platform for launching his 2014 gubernatorial run.

Hogan defeated then-Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown 51.03%-47.25% and was reelected in 2018 by nearly 12 points over former NAACP National President Ben Jealous -- becoming Maryland's first two-term Republican governor in over 60 years.

While expressing confidence that he could win, Hogan resisted pressure to challenge Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) in 2022, saying, "Just because you can win a race, doesn't mean that's the job you should do if your heart's not in it. And I just didn't see myself being a US Senator."

A vocal critic of Trump, Hogan teased a presidential run for the 2024 GOP nomination, and his leadership role in the non-partisan No-Labels group also fueled speculation that he might run as a third-party presidential candidate before the surprise February 9 announcement of his Senate bid.

The lead Democratic contenders in the May 14 primary are Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and three-term Congressman David Trone (CD-6).

Alsobrooks, who previously served two terms as state attorney for the affluent majority-Black Montgomery County, was elected Prince George’s County Executive in 2018 after winning a high-profile primary.

She has been endorsed by popular Governor Wes Moore, Van Hollen, and state congressional delegation members Hoyer, John Sarbanes (CD-03), Kweisi Mfume, (CD-7) and Glenn Ivy (CD-4).

Alsobrooks, who hopes to make history as Maryland's first Black Senator, has secured the lion's share of endorsements from local and state elected officials, including state Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker Adrienne Jones, and six former Democratic State Party Chairs.

EMILY's List and the Congressional Black Caucus are among the organizations throwing their weight behind her candidacy, as well as the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and local affiliates of the Machinists Union (IAM), Electrical Workers (IBEW), and Teamsters (IBT).

While no current polling is available, the last public survey, conducted November 9-13, 2023 by Victoria Research and Consulting, had Trone leading Alsobrooks 36% to 31%, with 18% undecided. In head-to-head matchups with Hogan, Trone led the ex-governor, 49% to 34%, while Alsobrooks trailed, 42% to 36%.

Trone represents the sixth congressional district, based in northwestern Maryland, including Frederick.

The Total Wine & More tycoon 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, Trone defeated GOP challenger Neil Parrott with 54.8% of the vote in 2022.

In that race, Trone, who reported assets of up to $150 million in recent financial disclosures and whose net worth is projected in the billions, lent his campaign $12.5 million. He has reportedly told colleagues that he is prepared to invest as much as $50 million in the Senate contest.

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

He is also endorsed by the Maryland Education Association, the National Education Association, SMART Union, and local affiliates of the Fire Fighters (IAFF), the Ironworkers (IW), Insulators Union (HFIAW) and Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Both Alsobrooks and Trone entered the race in May, with Alsobrooks reporting $5.04 million raised as of the Fourth Quarter 2023 fundraising report, with approximately $3.13 million cash on hand.

Trone, who launched his first major television ad buy within days of his announcement, ended 2023 with $23.7 million raised -- $23.2 million of which was self-funded -- and just under $455,000 on hand. According to AdImpact, 99% of the total $20.1 million in ad spending in the Senate race to date came from the Trone campaign. Alsobrooks released her first 30-second ad this week.

Hogan, who raised nearly $24 million for his 2018 reelection campaign and down-ballot Maryland Republicans that year, has been fundraising for his federal Better Path Forward PAC and 501(c)(4) organization called An America United, formed after leaving office in 2023 amid speculation of a presidential bid.

"While a lot of Democrats bought into Hogan's moderate façade as Governor, they won't be fooled again. The stakes could not be higher in this race -- which could determine who controls the United States Senate. Marylanders are aware of the national implications of their votes, and it will be our job as Democrats to make sure they are aware that Larry Hogan vetoed our abortion bill, vetoed our gun bill, vetoed our climate bill, vetoed our education funding bill and vetoed our bipartisan elections bill. Voting for Larry Hogan is equivalent to voting for Mitch McConnell." - Maryland State Senator Cheryl Kagan

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Sources: Ballotpedia, NPR, FEC, Maryland Matters, Axios, The Baltimore Banner, AP, Politico, The Daily Record

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