Primary Roundup: Two Popular GOP Govs. Poised to Replace Retiring Democrat Sens.

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(Headline USA) Republican voters advanced strong U.S. Senate contenders in Maryland and West Virginia on Tuesday, giving the GOP a big boost in its push to claim control of Congress’s upper chamber.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan claimed the Republican nomination in what will be a marquee race in Maryland against Angela Alsobrooks, a top local official from Prince George’s County.

Meanwhile, another popular Republican, Gov. Jim Justice, won the Senate nomination in deep-red West Virginia, becoming the overwhelming favorite in the race that represents the one of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities in the nation.

In both states, which share a border but feature antithetical politics, the Republican nominees represent a serious challenge for Democrats in the general election as they cling to a 51-49 Senate majority and defend seats in other states that former President Donald Trump won four years ago.

At the same time, Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden sought to project strength in low-stakes presidential primaries. And further down the ballot, two people who were on opposite sides of the Jan. 6 uprising lost their U.S. House bids—a former Capitol Police officer running in Maryland and a former West Virginia state lawmaker who participated in the riot.

In all, three states hosted statewide primary elections Tuesday—Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia—as Republicans and Democrats picked their nominees for a slate of November elections that will decide the presidency and control of Congress.

RINO HOGAN MAY BE GOP HERO IN MD.

In Maryland, Hogan gives Republicans a legitimate chance at picking up a Senate seat in the deep-blue state for the first time in more than four decades.

For Trump, it would be a mixed blessing. With Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (anoter previous blue-state governor) poised to retire, Hogan would likely be elevated into immediate prominence as the top intra-party critic should both prevail in their November races. Nonetheless, an unreliable Republican would be better than a reliable Democrat.

After getting trounced in the 2022 midterm while attempting to field a MAGA-friendly senatorial candidate, Republican primary voters in the state learned a valuable lesson. This time around, they overlooked Hogan’s yearslong criticism of Trump—a position that will undoubtedly help him in the general election this fall. Maryland voters gave Biden a 33-point victory over Trump four years ago.

On the other side in the Senate contest, Democratic voters nominated Alsobrooks, the top official in Prince George’s County outside of Washington, who would be the fourth black woman to serve in the Senate and just the third one elected to it.

The 53-year-old county executive defeated the early favorite Rep. David Trone—the wealthy cofounder of Total Wine, who had invested more than $61 million into his unsuccessful bid—-after Trone inadvertently used the term “jigaboo” during a debate on the House floor instead of “bugaboo.”

Top black leaders in the state, including Gov. Wes Moore, took the opportunity to rally around Alsobrooks, in hopes that she can motivate minority turnout in a state where roughly one in three residents identifies as African American.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer also threw their weight behind Alsobrooks, who can strike a greater idealogical contrast with the centrist Hogan even as Democrats brace for losses among independents and undecideds.

Hogan tweeted his congratulations to Alsobrooks, while saying, “Voters have a clear and stark choice: more of the dysfunctional partisan status quo or real independent and bipartisan leadership.”

While Alsobrooks is certain to bring the race card into her campaign, another notable primary win came for rising GOP star Kimberly Klacik in Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District.

Klacik rose to prominence in the 2020 race to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in Baltimore. Although the deep-blue district ultimately went to Democrat Kweisi Mfume, a viral video she created with Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson garnered her national media spots on Fox News and elsewhere.

Klacik became one of the leading black critics of the “Black Lives Matter” movement which was dominating political discourse at the time.

She now faces a white male, John Olszewski Jr., to fill the seat of retiring incumbent Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger in a large district that circumscribes Baltimore from the east, north and west and expands into some of the more suburban and rural areas in the central part of the state.

JUSTICE PREVAILS IN WEST VA.

Justice won his primary against U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney for the seat of retiring Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, which is almost guaranteed to turn red come November.

The Trump-endorsed Justice, a multimillionaire with a folksy personality, is wildly popular in the state. A former Democrat whose 2016 gubernatorial bid was endorsed by Manchin (also an ex-governor), Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017, announcing the change at a Trump rally.

Despite his connection to the former Republican president, Justice doesn’t pander to Trump as much as most statewide GOP officials, and he largely avoids focusing on some of the culture-war issues, such as transgender rights.

Mooney had tried to win over conservatives by labeling Justice a RINO who would support Democratic policies. Justice did support Biden’s so-called infrastructure law, saying West Virginia couldn’t afford to turn away the money offered in the bill.

At a polling place in West Virginia’s capital city, voter Steve Ervin said his votes Tuesday were directly related to Trump.

“I really did an exhaustive study of the sample ballot of who I believe supported Trump and Trump supported them,” said Ervin, who works in the state’s unemployment office. “That’s what I made my whole decision on.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican nominee in the 2018 Senate race against Manchin, won the nomination for West Virginia governor.

PRO-HAMAS FALLOUT CONTINUES

Democrat voters continued to register significant dissatisfaction with the Biden administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas.

Although the nationwide protest movement on college campuses was winding down with schools letting out for the summer, roughly 10% of Maryland voters—many of whom wished to show their solidarity with Hamas—opted to select “uncommitted to any presidential candidate.”

Results coming in Tuesday night suggested the “uncommitted” vote was running behind the margins of similar movements in Michigan and Minnesota, two major battleground states with sizable Muslim populations.

The political pressure may have had a direct role in swaying some of Biden’s antagonistic rhetoric toward Israel—as well as the controversial and potentially impeachable decision to withhold material support that Congress had previously voted to approve.

There was no “uncommitted” option in West Virginia (where Biden performed worse due to a crowded field of alternatives) or Nebraska (where he performed slightly better, with only Rep. Dean Phillips to compete against).

Everett Bellamy, a Democrat who voted early in Annapolis, said he voted “uncommitted” instead of Biden as a protest against the killing of women and children and noncombatants in Gaza—despite recent statistics showing those numbers were greatly exaggerated.

“I wanted to send a message,” Bellamy, 74, said after leaving an early voting center.

In blue states with open primaries in particular—such as Maryland, where some of Hogan’s supporters may not necessarily have been traditional Republicans—Trump also continues to see protest votes directed toward ex-GOP rival Nikki Haley.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor who also served as Trump’s U.N. ambassador, formally suspended her campaign on March 6, the day after Super Tuesday.

NO POINTS FOR JAN. 6 PARTICIPANTS

Tuesday’s elections also included two candidates who were intimately involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In Maryland, former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn was among nearly two dozen Democrats running in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The 40-year-old Democrat lost to State Sen. Sarah Elfreth.

In West Virginia, a former member of the House of Delegates, Derrick Evans, lost his bid to oust incumbent Republican Rep. Carol Miller in the 1st Congressional District. The 39-year-old Evans served a three-month jail sentence after livestreaming himself in the U.S. Capitol.

OTHER KEY RACES

In Nebraska, Republican Sens. Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts both won their primaries, one of the rare occasions when both senators in a state were on the ballot at the same time. And in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon fended off a challenge from his right flank.

In North Carolina, voters finalized their pick of the Trump-endorsed Brad Knott in what had become a one-person Republican primary in the state’s 13th Congressional District.

The Tarheel State also selected Hal Weatherman—a political veteran with deep ties in state politics—as the nominee for lieutenant governor. Weatherman will round out a high-impact ticket with current U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop and current Lt. Gov Mark Robinson, who are running for attorney general and governor, respectively.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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