Democrats look to band together after Maryland’s bruising Senate primary

Written by on May 17, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — Angela Alsobrooks emerged as the victor in a bruising Democratic Senate primary in Maryland — and now the state’s Democratic Party faces the challenge of reuniting to take on a formidable Republican opponent in the general election.

Alsobrooks, a county executive in a Maryland suburb outside the nation’s capital, defeated Rep. David Trone and now faces the daunting task of taking on a popular Republican challenger, Larry Hogan, a two-term former GOP governor.

While Maryland is a deep blue state, Alsobrooks is not on a glide path to a Senate win. Experts tell ABC News that Democrats, wounded in the Alsobrooks-Trone battle, needs to realign to take on Hogan — with nothing short of control of the U.S. Senate at stake.

Both Alsobrooks and Trone sounded a conciliatory note in their election night speeches on Tuesday, signaling a hope to mend the party and keep the Senate seat — vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin — in Democratic hands.

“I want you to know we are united in order to keep the Senate blue,” Alsobrooks said.

Trone urged his supporters to “come together to support the Democratic Party so we can hold this U.S. Senate.”

The Maryland Democratic Party is also showcasing what it says is a unified front, releasing statements from members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and from local leaders praising Alsobrooks and Trone. One of those statements came from Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., who had endorsed Trone, but now urged Democrats to band together to not let “Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate turn control of the U.S. Senate over to Republicans.”

Former Democratic state party chair Yvette Lewis told ABC News that the grassroots work to bridge the gap between the candidates’ supporters began right after the primary.

“People started making phone calls and mending fences [on Wednesday] — I was a part of that — to make sure that everybody knows that the primary is over, and that it’s time for us to come together for the general election,” Lewis said.

“You can’t just brush people aside and say, OK, this is over. Now it’s time to come to the table … What you have to do is validate them, validate their work and thank them for the work that they did. And then welcome them to this new coalition.”

Susan Turnbull, another former state party chair for the Maryland Democratic Party, expressed similar optimism: “What we do in Maryland, is work as Team Maryland,” she told ABC News.

One official who endorsed Trone, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, said she’s “eager to rally behind [Alsobrooks] to retain control of the Senate and ensure Maryland remains blue.”

Michael Hanmer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, told ABC News that Trone and Alsobrooks must now work together to show party unity.

“Another key piece of strategy is not just to get Trone to say nice things and be supportive in words [about Alsobrooks], but to go out and work with Alsobrooks … rather than just be on the sidelines,” Hanmer said.

Alsobrooks and Trone’s campaigns did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News about their next steps after the primary.

Lewis said that Trone supporters can be a vital part of Alsobrooks’ success as well.

“We want them to canvass, we want to phone bank, we want them to help us raise the money … we want them to be part of the entire process,” she said.

Alsobrooks wasted no time as the newly-minted Democratic nominee in aiming criticism at Hogan, reminding supporters of the stakes for Democrats in their upcoming battle.

“The fight ahead will not be easy. There are a lot of people in our state who say, ‘Oh you know it’s Maryland. It’s a blue state. We can worry about another race someplace else …’ but it will only stay a blue state if we put in the work,” Alsobrooks said at her election night event.

Hogan, speaking to supporters on Tuesday night, said he already anticipated the politicking ahead.

“Over the next few months, you are going to hear a whole lot more of this political BS, and Marylanders are going to be inundated with scare tactics and false attacks. Don’t let them get away with it,” he said.

Hanmer anticipates that Democrats will need to articulate how they feel Hogan will be different as a senator — and a potential deciding vote in the chamber — than during his time as governor working with a Democratic-controlled legislature. He said it will be a challenge to get people to rethink their approach to Hogan, who won the governor job by about 5 points in 2014 and 12 points in 2018, and he left with sky-high approval ratings.

Hanmer said Democrats face a challenge in that Alsobrooks doesn’t have as much statewide recognition as Hogan.

“[Alsobrooks] hasn’t had a statewide position before, so I think there’s still going to be a lot of people that need to get to know her.”

ABC News’ Tal Axelrod contributed to this report.

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