May 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' ugliest primary comes to an end

U.S. Rep. David Trone and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks participate in a U.S. Senate Democratic primary forum

Rep. David Trone and Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks participate in a U.S. Senate Democratic primary forum. Photo: Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun, Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Maryland voters on Tuesday will end one of the ugliest Senate primaries of the cycle, choosing between wealthy businessman Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) or county executive Angela Alsobrooks, a favorite of state party leaders.

Why it matters: The choice is a monumental one for Maryland Democrats, as the party will face former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican, in November. The deep-blue state is suddenly competitive.

Trone has spent over $60 million of his own money on the primary campaign alone. The resources available to the wealthy businessman could be an attractive feature of his candidacy for national Democrats.

  • In a year in which Democrats are forced to defend perilous seats in eight different states, having a candidate who can pay his own way would be a welcome relief.

But Trone's millions haven't been enough to put him in a comfortable lead. In fact, Alsobrooks, executive of Prince George's County, bested Trone in some of the latest polls.

  • "I think that's a testament to the strength of her message and her campaign that despite being hugely outspent ... her message is resonating more strongly," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Axios.

The last few months have plunged the campaign into the most divisive Democratic primary, which has split national and state Democrats.

  • The Trone campaign started running attack ads going after Alsobrooks' lack of experience at the federal level. Alsobrooks backers have slammed Trone for his use of a racial slur in a congressional hearing — for which he apologized, saying he misspoke —and criticized his ads.
  • Alsobrooks has a deep bench of key endorsements — including from seven potential colleagues in the Senate, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and much of the state's congressional delegation.
  • Trone has had zero senators publicly back his campaign, though he does have the support of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and a swath of state officials.

What they're saying: Despite the deep schism the campaign has driven between the two camps, Democrats tell Axios they are confident either Trone or Alsobrooks can beat Hogan in November.

  • "Either of our two major candidates will win in the general election," Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who is retiring from the seat, told Axios last week.
  • "Democrats have won every statewide federal election in Maryland for the past 40 years, and 2024 will be no different," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Amanda Sherman Baity.
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