Maryland primary elections will set the stage for Senate majority fight this fall

Voters across Maryland and West Virginia will decide key primary elections Tuesday with big implications in the fight for the Senate majority this fall.

At the same time, Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican rival Donald Trump hope to project strength in low-stakes presidential primaries, while further down the ballot, two congressional candidates on opposite sides of the 2021 Capitol attack serve as a stark reminder that the nation remains deeply divided over the deadly insurrection.

In all, three states hosted statewide primary elections on Tuesday — Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia — as Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees for a slate of fall elections. None are more consequential than Senate primaries in Maryland and West Virginia, where Republicans are eying pickup opportunities that could flip control of Congress' upper chamber for at least two years.


In Maryland, Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan expects to dominate the state's GOP Senate primary despite his years-long criticism of Trump, whom Hogan describes as a threat to democracy. The former two-term governor would be the blue state's first Republican senator in more than four decades.

On the Democratic side, Rep. David Trone has been locked in a contentious — and expensive — battle with Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Trone, the co-founder of the Total Wine & More national liquor store chain, has put more than $61 million of his own money into the race. That's just shy of the national record for self-funding a Senate campaign, with much of it going to a months-long TV ad blitz. The three-term congressman says he’s better positioned to beat Hogan in November as a progressive Democrat not beholden to special interests.

Race has been an issue in the primary, with Alsobrooks working to become Maryland’s first Black U.S. senator. Trone apologized in March for what he said was the inadvertent use of a racial slur during a budget hearing.

Alsobrooks has been endorsed by many of the state’s top officials, including Gov. Wes Moore, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Steny Hoyer and a long list of state lawmakers. She has campaigned on growing economic opportunity, investing in education and protecting abortion rights.


Republican Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney are the leading GOP candidates in the race to replace Sen. Joe Manchin. With Manchin gone, the seat is almost guaranteed to turn red come November.

The Trump-endorsed Justice, a former billionaire with a folksy personality that’s made him wildly popular in the state, is the front-runner against Mooney and five other lesser-known Republicans. A former Democrat, Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017. He announced the change at a Trump rally.

Mooney has tried to win over conservatives by labeling Justice a "RINO" — which stands for "Republican in name only" — who would support Democratic policies. Justice did support Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, saying West Virginia couldn't afford to turn away the money offered in the bill. Mooney voted against it.

At a polling place in West Virginia’s capital city, voter Steve Ervin said his votes on 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."

West Virginia is also deciding its candidates for governor.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican nominee in the 2018 Senate race against Manchin, is running for the Republican nomination. He’s up against former state Rep. Moore Capito, whose mother is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.


Biden and Trump have already amassed enough delegates to claim the presidential nominations at their respective national conventions this summer. Yet voters on both sides hope to register a significant protest vote Tuesday that will demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the Biden-Trump rematch.

Maryland progressives especially unhappy with the Biden administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas are encouraging voters to select "uncommitted to any presidential candidate" instead of Biden. There is no uncommitted option in West Virginia or Nebraska.

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.

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

Meanwhile, Trump's Republican critics cannot choose "uncommitted," but they can choose his former GOP rival Nikki Haley, who will appear on the ballot in Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia despite formally suspending her campaign more than two months ago.

Derek Faux, an independent voter from Charleston, W.V., said he supported Haley, and in other Republican races, he said he voted for the candidates he believed were least like Trump.

"I would rather see moderate, reasonable Republicans than some of the other folks," said Faux, a librarian.


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

In West Virginia, a former member of the House of Delegates, Derrick Evans, is running for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District. The 39-year-old Trump loyalist served a three-month jail sentence after livestreaming himself participating in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Evans is trying to oust incumbent Republican Rep. Carol Miller.

In Maryland, former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn is among nearly two dozen Democrats running in the state's 3rd Congressional District. The 40-year-old Democrat was in the Capitol working to repel the violent mob on Jan. 6.


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

In North Carolina, voters will finalize their pick in what has become a one-person Republican primary in the state's 13th Congressional District. Trump endorsed Brad Knott this month, leading his opponent to suspend her campaign.


This story has deleted an incorrect reference to a California election being Tuesday. The California election is next week.


Willingham reported from Charleston, West Virginia. Peoples reported from Washington.


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