5 takeaways from Tuesday's primaries: Alsobrooks, Hogan to face off in Maryland Senate race

Voters headed to the polls in Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia.

May 14, 2024, 11:35 PM

Voters headed to the polls in Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia on Tuesday to set up several key down-ballot races.

Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks won the Democratic nomination in Maryland's marquee Senate race, while Republicans in West Virginia appointed candidates likely to take over one of the state's Senate seats and governor's mansion.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump sailed to victory in their respective primaries, while restlessness in their respective bases persisted.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday night's results.

Machine overcomes money in contentious Maryland Senate primary

Alsobrooks won the Democratic Senate primary in Maryland, defeating Rep. David Trone in one of the most consequential nominating contests of the year.

The race marked a battle between local machine and money. Alsobrooks had the backing of many prominent Maryland politicians, while Trone, the wealthy founder of Total Wine & More, had the support of congressional leaders while dumping tens of millions of his own dollars into his campaign.

While Trone's money was able to help him blanket the airwaves and deliver loads of mail advertisements to voters' homes, some voters who spoke to ABC News in Maryland said they were supporting Alsobrooks because they trusted her endorsers, including people like Rep. Jamie Raskin, D.

In the end, machine won with more ease than expected.

With 46% of the estimated vote in, Alsobrooks won by about 10 points, a stunning victory for a candidate who faced such a yawning spending deficit.

Now, Alsobrooks will try to make history. Maryland has never elected a Black senator, and only three Black women have served in the Senate from any state.

First, though, she will have to defeat popular former Gov. Larry Hogan, who won the GOP Senate primary Tuesday. Though Maryland is one of the nation's bluest states, his candidacy makes the race competitive -- with nothing less than Senate control at stake.

"On November 5, 2024, we are going to defeat Larry Hogan, keep Maryland blue, and keep our Senate under Democratic control — spread the word," Alsobrooks wrote on X.

Hogan sails through primary -- now comes the hard part

Hogan, who took over 60% of the primary vote with about two-thirds of the estimated ballots counted, is a popular former two-term governor who left office in 2023 with impressive approval ratings. It remains to be seen if he can replicate the formula that sent him to the governor's mansion.

His first two statewide campaigns were fueled by support from Republicans, independents and disaffected Democrats.

PHOTO: Maryland Senate Candidate Larry Hogan Votes On Primary Election Day
Larry Hogan, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, greets supporters before casting his ballot in the state primary election at Davidsonville Elementary School on May 14, 2024.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While his popularity instantly makes the race competitive, he'll need to duplicate his past coalition to actually defeat Alsobrooks, who will likely benefit from a draft off the top of the ticket, given that Biden won the state by over 30 points in 2020.

Republicans point to his track record of electoral success to suggest he has as good a chance as ever.

"For eight years, Governor Hogan delivered results for Maryland by reaching across the aisle. Marylanders know they can trust Governor Hogan to keep their communities safe and achieve results in Washington," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines.

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Still, Hogan is now running in a presidential year for a federal office with Senate control and a contentious White House race at stake, possibly limiting his crossover appeal.

A campaign event in Baltimore County on Monday drew both Republicans and independents enthusiastic for Hogan. But as his campaign was setting up, one voter approached Hogan's team to tell them they wanted Trump to take power in Washington before walking away.

Protest votes linger for Trump, Biden

Trump and Biden coasted to primary wins in Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia. But warning signs remained for both men.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the GOP presidential primary over two months ago, snagged around 20% of the vote in Maryland and Nebraska, though she did garner only about 10% in West Virginia, one of the nation's Trump-friendliest states.

The results echoed those of other recent primaries in which Haley has been able to draw support, particularly in the suburban areas that cost Trump in 2020.

On the Democratic side, about 10% of voters in Maryland backed "uncommitted" in an apparent protest vote over Biden's handling of the war in Gaza. And Jason Palmer, a little-known contender who won the American Samoa primary, took about 11% of the vote in West Virginia.

Biden has been dogged by the Israel-Hamas war and disgruntlement over U.S. support for Israel's military, bursting out into the open in protests on college campuses across the country. However, polls cast doubt that the war in Gaza is a top motivating issue for young voters.

Republicans get their man in West Virginia

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice won the GOP Senate primary, setting him up as the overwhelming favorite to take the seat of retiring Sen. Joe Manchin, D.

Justice handily dispatched with Rep. Alex Mooney, who had cast himself as the true conservative in the race compared to Justice, a former Democrat who switched parties in 2017.

Justice had the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and former President Donald Trump, handing him immense institutional support. Mooney was endorsed by the anti-tax Club for Growth, which had vowed to spend millions in support of their candidate but ultimately didn't invest as significantly after Justice became the odds-on primary favorite.

The governor is expected to coast to victory in November in blood-red West Virginia, handing Republicans a likely easy flip in their quest for Senate control.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks at an election night watch party at the governor's mansion in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, after he won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)
Chris Jackson/AP

"Thank you, West Virginia, for placing your support and trust in me. I am truly humbled and will work every day to win in November so we can flip the Senate and deliver on our America-First agenda!" Justice wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the GOP primary for the chance to replace Justice in the governor's mansion. That primary, also resembling more of a coronation in the GOP bastion, morphed into an ugly battle over culture war issues like transgender rights.

AIPAC-backed candidate defeats Jan. 6 Capitol Hill police officer

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a heavy spender in the 2024 cycle thus far, scored a victory in a contentious Democratic House primary in Maryland.

State Sen. Sarah Elfreth won the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 3rd Congressional District, fending off a crowded field including Harry Dunn, a police officer who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

An AIPAC-affiliated super PAC spent over $4 million on her behalf, though it said it didn't explicitly get involved to block Dunn, who had also expressed support for Israel. However, the race grew combative after Dunn called out AIPAC's extensive involvement, often raising the group's support for Republican candidates this year.

Elfreth is expected to handily win in November. Retiring Rep. John Sarbanes, D, won reelection in 2022 by about 40 points.

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