Politics / May 15, 2024

Angela Alsobrooks Beat the Big Money. Now She Has to Beat the Big Republican.

Maryland’s new Democratic US Senate nominee won a bitterly contested primary. Now, she has an even tougher fight on her hands.

John Nichols
Angela Alsobrooks, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Maryland, greets voters on the state's primary election day at Lewisdale Elementary School in Chillum, Md., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Angela Alsobrooks greets voters on the state’s primary election day at Lewisdale Elementary School in Chillum, Maryland, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

(Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Angela Alsobrooks had already beaten the odds. On Tuesday, in Maryland’s Democratic US Senate primary, the former domestic violence prosecutor and current Prince George’s County executive faced US Representative David Trone, one of the wealthiest men in America, a free-spending monopolist who loaned his campaign close to $62 million and set a new national record for spending in a Senate primary. On the television airwaves that have traditionally set the narrative for Senate races in Maryland and other states, Alsobrooks was outspent by a staggering $47.5 million to $4 million.

Yet when the votes were counted, Alsobrooks beat Trone, the über-wealthy co-owner of the Total Wines and More alcoholic beverages empire, by a comfortable 54-42 margin. It was a decisive win for grassroots “people-powered” politics and for Alsobrooks, who, if elected, would be the first Black senator from Maryland and only the third Black woman elected to the chamber in US history. “Tonight, we made history—and we did it while overcoming steep odds,” declared the nominee. “So for anyone who’s ever felt counted out, overlooked, and underestimated—I hope you share in this moment and know what’s possible.”

What’s especially possible, if Alsobrooks wins in November, is that Democrats could retain control of the Senate, where they now hold a 51-49 majority. But that result is not guaranteed.

In a year when Democrats are fighting an uphill battle to keep the Senate, the party cannot afford to lose any seats. By most historical measures, retaining the seat of retiring Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin would not be a headache for the party. Maryland’s a reliably blue state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1980. But everything changed in February when popular former Republican Governor Larry Hogan entered the race. Hogan won his own primary easily on Tuesday, and he poses a formidable challenge.

Though he is backed by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP money machine, Hogan is campaigning as a moderate with a record of sharply criticizing former president Donald Trump. (He even considered running against Trump in the Republican presidential primaries or as a “No Labels” independent.) But instead of fighting for the soul of the Republican Party at the national level, Hogan has refocused on Maryland and positioned himself as a managerial Republican who rejects the extreme-right ideology and cult-of-Trump politics of the current GOP. He was pushing that message hard on Tuesday night.

“To my Democratic and independent friends tonight, you know me. You know my proven track record of reaching across the aisle to find common ground for the common good,” he announced. “You know that I’m not going to be just one more Capitol Hill Republican. You know that I have the courage to put people over politics and to put country over party. And you know that I will stand up to the current president, the former president, to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.”

But the happy bipartisan talk obscures a grim reality. If Hogan wins the Maryland seat in November, his first vote as a US senator will be to organize the chamber under Republican leadership. And if Trump beats Democratic President Joe Biden this fall, a Republican-controlled Senate would give a huge boost to the “Project 2025” plot to turn the federal government into a hyper-partisan vehicle for the former president’s ambitions.

That’s a message that Alsobrooks sought to communicate on Tuesday night when she declared that “we are united in our focus to keep the Senate blue.”

Current Issue

Cover of May 2024 Issue

To forge that unity, she’ll focus in particular on the issue of abortion rights. While both Alsobrooks and Hogan say they support the right to choose, Hogan has said he is personally opposed to abortion and, as governor, he vetoed legislation that would have expanded training for abortion providers. When the veto was overridden, Hogan withheld state funding for the training.

Alsobrooks has signaled that she will make advocacy for reproductive rights a key theme of her case against Hogan, saying that the ex-governor has a “record that he will have to defend.” Abortion rights advocacy groups made it clear Tuesday night that they would keep the heat on Hogan, with Reproductive Freedom for All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju saying, “Angela Alsobrooks is the candidate we need in the Senate to protect and expand reproductive freedom, and we’re thrilled to see Maryland voters back her in today’s primary. Republican Larry Hogan would be another rubber stamp on the GOP’s agenda to ban all abortion. We can’t let him anywhere near the Senate—and that’s why we’ll continue to mobilize our members to make sure he never has the chance.”

Hogan has won big before in Maryland, however, so this will be a fiercely competitive race. National Democrats know they will have to move resources to the state, and Maryland Democrats will have to be united—something that has not always been the case in past races against Hogan. But US Representative Jamie Raskin, an early and enthusiastic supporter of Alsobrooks, thinks the reality of what’s at stake nationally will clarify what’s at stake in Maryland and unite Democratic voters behind their nominee.

“We have a very politically engaged and sophisticated electorate in Maryland,” says Raskin. “People understand that it might be one thing to have, you know, a vaguely moderate Republican governor, but to send a person like that into the Senate is just to put another brick in the wall of the MAGA Republican Party behind Donald Trump.”

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that moves the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories to readers like you.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Thank you for your generosity.

John Nichols

John Nichols is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation. He has written, cowritten, or edited over a dozen books on topics ranging from histories of American socialism and the Democratic Party to analyses of US and global media systems. His latest, cowritten with Senator Bernie Sanders, is the New York Times bestseller It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism.

More from The Nation

Supporters of former president Donald Trump watch as he holds a rally in the South Bronx on May 23, 2024, in New York City. The Bronx, home to a large Latino community, has been a Democratic base for generations of voters and the rally comes as Trump looks to attract more non-white voters.

Trump Takes the Bronx Trump Takes the Bronx

45 who wants to be 47 got what he came for.

D.D. Guttenplan

A worker hangs an election campaign billboard of the Likud party showing former US President Donald Trump, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on September 8, 2019.

Will Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu Bless Donald Trump With an October Surprise? Will Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu Bless Donald Trump With an October Surprise?

Unlike Joe Biden, the former president benefits from international turmoil. 

Jeet Heer

House Campus Antisemitism Hearing

Inside the Latest Congressional Hearing on Campus Antisemitism Inside the Latest Congressional Hearing on Campus Antisemitism

Students for Justice in Palestine called the hearing “a manufactured attack on higher education” as Republicans criticized universities for negotiating with protesters.

StudentNation / Owen Dahlkamp

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced that she would vote for former president Donald Trump during an event at the Hudson Institute on May 22, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

The Soulless Hypocrisy of Nikki Haley The Soulless Hypocrisy of Nikki Haley

Haley has abandoned her opposition to Trump for political expediency. Joe Biden should use Haley’s words against her—and Trump.

John Nichols

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Samuel Alito’s Opinions Are Just As Upside-Down as His Flag Samuel Alito’s Opinions Are Just As Upside-Down as His Flag

In a majority opinion rubber-stamping South Carolina’s racist congressional map, Alito made it effectively impossible to contest racial gerrymanders.

Elie Mystal

Joe Biden tries on a pair of sunglasses on in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Biden’s Desperate Bid to Reclaim the Youth Vote Is Missing the Point Biden’s Desperate Bid to Reclaim the Youth Vote Is Missing the Point

Recent policies regarding student debt and cannabis seem like naked appeals to a crucial demographic that cares most about US involvement in Israel’s war on Gaza.

Chris Lehmann