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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Maryland primary winners and losers

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is joined on stage by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) and members of the state’s federal delegation at her Democratic primary victory party on May 14, 2024. Photo by William J. Ford.

Phew, that was fast!

Tuesday night’s primary election results rolled in a lot quicker than anticipated, ending some races outright and teeing up what few competitive general elections Maryland is going to have this fall.

Wednesday dawned with the Senate Majority PAC, a group affiliated with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), hitting former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for being endorsed by Arizona’s leading MAGA Republican, Kari Lake, who congratulated Hogan on social media and said she looked forward to serving with him in the Senate. Hogan later Wednesday announced the formation of a group called Democrats for Hogan, which will be co-chaired by former Baltimore County state Sen. Bobby Zirkin.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that, in a nutshell, describes what the state’s marquee U.S. Senate race is going to look like over the next 5 1/2 months. Democrats will try to tie Hogan to the most extreme elements of the GOP. Hogan will try to remind voters how much he loves Democrats and independents — and vice-versa.

But before we go too far down that road, it’s worth pointing out that Tuesday’s primary election reordered the state’s political dynamic in many ways, as so many of these election nights do. So it seemed right to once again tally the winners and losers from the primary. Some are obvious — others less so.

Winners

Angela Alsobrooks

You can’t quite say a star is born, because her star has been rising for many years now. But you can say her surprisingly resounding Democratic primary win in the Senate race represents a promise fulfilled, when it looked until the final days like she might lose. The Prince George’s County executive’s campaign endured many hiccups along the way, but she overcame them, and now she will get heavy national attention and fundraising help as she chases history and battles Hogan for the open Senate seat. She’ll become as big a national superstar as Gov. Wes Moore (D) if she prevails.

The Maryland Democratic establishment

Alsobrooks, April McClain Delaney, Sarah Elfreth, Brandon Scott — the favorites of the so-called Maryland Democratic establishment all won, in most cases by wider margins than anticipated. Who says there isn’t an in crowd in this state, especially within the state Democratic Party?

Black women

Not only did this vital Democratic voting bloc help put Alsobrooks over the top, but Black women in public office or aspiring to public office in Maryland feel seen and empowered like never before. And you can be sure this will redound to future vital political contests in the state. Alsobrooks may be on the verge of blowing down one of the biggest doors in politics. Others will walk right through.

Sheila O’Connell

The veteran Democratic strategist took over Alsobrooks’ campaign at the end of 2023, at its lowest point. Now she’s nurtured a budding national superstar into a big-time winner. Another feather in her cap.

Sarah Elfreth

Anyone who doubted that the Democratic state senator from Anne Arundel County and the likely future U.S. House member from the 3rd District was anything but a political thoroughbred must surely be convinced now. She is nothing if not a tenacious, focused, resolute campaigner who takes care of her political base and knows how to expand it, winning 35% of the vote in a 22-candidate field. And we can all say we knew her way back when.

AIPAC

Elfreth brought so many assets to the table, and her victory margin over former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn was so surprisingly big, it’s easy to speculate whether she would have won even without the millions that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC invested in the race on her behalf. But those ads no doubt helped boost her profile at a strategic time. And now the powerhouse pro-Israel lobby should have a lifetime ally on Capitol Hill.

Pat Murray

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Peripatetic Democratic strategist who keeps insisting he’s done with politics was the guiding light of Elfreth’s campaign, and she said as much during her victory speech.

Harry Dunn

Yes, he lost. Yes, he blew through a lot of money, with little to show for it. But the very fact that he was able to pull in so much money so quickly in his maiden political run, and change the dynamic in a race with five seasoned state lawmakers, speaks to his star power and his value as an avatar of democracy. Dunn says he wants to remain politically active, and if he does so locally, and figures out how to make a difference, he’ll be an asset. We wonder, though, if he regrets not running for Congress in the 6th District, which takes in some of Montgomery County, where he lives, instead of the 3rd.

Johnny O

They like you, they really like you. See you on Capitol Hill.

Brandon Scott

The Baltimore mayor has matured in office, out-hustled the opposition during the primary and outrun expectations. He’s not as prominent in the recovery efforts from the Key Bridge collapse as Moore or the state’s congressional delegation, but he’s used the enhanced spotlight wisely, appearing compassionate, knowledgeable and engaged.

Zeke Cohen

Cohen’s solid victory in the three-way Democratic primary for Baltimore City Council president is a reminder that white reformers can prosper in citywide politics if they put the right coalitions together. Cohen should be a force to be reckoned with in the city for the foreseeable future.

Potomac plutocrats

Unless Neil Parrott, the Republican nominee in the 6th Congressional District for the third straight election cycle, is able to pull an upset in November, the 6th will continue its 12-year string of being represented by wealthy Potomac residents who don’t actually live in the district. Right now, April McClain Delaney, a lawyer and former U.S. Commerce Department official who ran a sober, disciplined campaign in the Democratic primary, seems like the strong favorite in the general.

Tekesha Martinez

We don’t know what kind of political future the Hagerstown mayor has, after finishing fourth in the 6th District Democratic primary. But as a spoken word poet and mediator, she struck us as maybe the coolest candidate on the ballot this year.

Losers

The Mosby political dynasty in Baltimore

How the mighty have fallen.

David Smith

The former CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting and the new owner of the Baltimore Sun pushed hard, and in different ways, to elect Sheila Dixon mayor of Baltimore. It didn’t work.

Sheila Dixon and Thiru Vignarajah

Surely they are done being candidates for citywide office in Baltimore.

Anthony Brown

Did the state attorney general owe U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) some loyalty for all the political and financial help Trone has given him through the years? Sure. But did it make sense for Brown to endorse Trone over Alsobrooks, with whom he always had a close relationship, in the Democratic primary for Senate? That seems like a miscalculation, at a minimum. Brown is closer to the end of his political career than he is to the beginning, and his endorsement of Trone may not hurt him all that much politically. But surely he succeeded in burning a few bridges unnecessarily.

Ed Burroughs and Krystal Oriadha

Good luck getting your phone calls returned by the Alsobrooks administration, folks. Oriadha and Burroughs have always been part of the Prince George’s County Council faction that frequently works in opposition to Alsobrooks. But since they were such prominent supporters of Trone in the Senate primary, their constituents may wonder how effective these lawmakers can be on their behalf. Burroughs’ statement in a Trone ad about Alsobrooks needing “training wheels” was especially catastrophic — and may have even been a decisive factor in Trone’s defeat. At least they got to sit courtside with Trone at a Wizards’ game on New Year’s Eve day.

Aisha Braveboy

The Prince George’s state’s attorney’s decision to back Trone over Alsobrooks seemed a little puzzling, because she always insisted she had a good relationship with Alsobrooks, who is her predecessor as the county’s top prosecutor, and she clearly wants to succeed Alsobrooks as county executive. Well, the county executive’s job is closer to being vacant at the end of the year than it was before Alsobrooks’ primary victory, and Braveboy presumably will go for it. But what’s her political standing in the county right now?

The National Education Association

The usually redoubtable teachers’ union went 1-for-3 in the highest-profile congressional races on primary day, winning with Elfreth in the 3rd District but losing with Trone in the Senate primary and with Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) in the 6th District. We suspect their local affiliates fared better in school board primaries.

Congressional Democrats not from Maryland

Many endorsed Trone in the Senate primary and Dunn in the 3rd District primary, creating a sense among national media that those candidates were the insiders’ picks. In Maryland, we know different.

Ashwani Jain, Joel Rubin and Shannon Sneed

These three talented and young(ish) political leaders all made races this year that they probably shouldn’t have, finishing way out of the money (Jain and Rubin in the 6th District Democratic primary — Rubin fact dropped out in March and endorsed the eventual winner, Delaney — and Sneed in the race for Baltimore city council president) and damaging their political futures in the process. Every campaign has extenuating circumstances. Rubin, a Middle East policy expert, became distracted by the war in Gaza. But these three candidates serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder: You don’t have to be on the ballot every election cycle, folks.

Dan Cox

Surely he is done as a political candidate, after running a lackluster campaign and finishing second in the 6th District Republican primary.

Robin Ficker

Surely he is done as a political candidate … Oh, never mind!

Push

Joe Vogel

Would he win popularity contests with his colleagues in Annapolis? Probably not. Did his campaign get a little too aggressive at times about attacking fellow Democrat April McClain Delaney in the 6th District primary? Possibly. But when the 6th District seat came open, did anyone anticipate the 27-year-old freshman lawmaker being the strong runner-up in the primary, racking up impressive endorsements and garnering plenty of attention? That’s a tribute to his hustle, and if he sticks around for a while he might find other enticing political opportunities, and he’ll take valuable lessons from the primary race he just waged.

Larry Hogan

Is Hogan a formidable general election candidate, with the political instincts to prevail? Absolutely. Is he loving all the national media attention he’s getting now and will continue to attract through Election Day? You better believe it. Was there any realistic possibility that he was going to lose the GOP primary to Robin Ficker? Of course not. Hogan took 62% to Ficker’s 30% — but that was 18 points behind former President Donald Trump’s showing in the Republican presidential primary. Ficker won four rural counties. And you have to imagine that a less carnival-barker-like GOP conservative opponent than Ficker might have actually caused Hogan to sweat in the primary. Now Hogan faces a costly contest against Alsobrooks, who provides a stronger contrast in the general election than Trone would have, on unfamiliar terrain, with Trump heading the Republican ticket and abortion rights on the statewide ballot. Hogan is canny enough to win — but he could just as easily lose.

David Trone

Critics will judge the congressman harshly for spending $62 million of his own money on a losing run for Senate. In our view, only his family can judge. Let’s not forget: Alsobrooks started this primary as the frontrunner, and it was only during the past couple of weeks that she found her voice and her footing while Trone and his campaign stumbled. In the intervening months, Trone spent prodigiously but also wisely, highlighting his liberal bona fides, targeting key segments of the Democratic electorate, and confounding Alsobrooks and the political insiders by racking up a decent number of endorsements from key elected officials. In the end, he made some verbal gaffes, his campaign made a few unforced errors, and those helped contribute to Alsobrooks’ surge. Two weeks ago, he probably would have won. Politics ain’t beanbag.

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Maryland primary winners and losers