In Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary, a high-stakes clash between a history-making pick and a candidate with deep pockets

(Silver Spring, Maryland).

The farmers market in this suburb of Washington, D.C., was a huge rally for Angela Alsobrooks, who is running in an increasingly contentious Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday.

“I would really like to see a black woman in the Senate. “It’s about time,” said 68-year-old Kathy Pruitt of Takoma Park as she stood in the pickle line last Saturday.

If elected in November, Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s County executive, could become the third Black woman ever elected to the Senate. (The only black woman currently serving — Lavonza Butler of California — was appointed W does not work to stay on beyond this year.) Albrooks will also add a woman to Maryland’s 10-person congressional delegation, all of whom are male.

First, though, she had to defeat one of these men — Democratic Rep. David Troneco-owner of Total Wine & More, has poured about $60 million of his own money into the election so far.

“I think it’s going to be a close race, and I think they both have a path to victory,” said Maylea Cromer, who oversees the Goucher College poll, noting the potential strength of Allbrooks’ endorsement and the Prince George’s County rule versus Trone’s rule. Huge spending advantage.

The race has divided Congress, with nearly all members of the Maryland delegation supporting Albrooks while key members of the House Democratic leadership support Trone. The eventual nominee will likely face former GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, who may be popular in the state And jeopardizing the Democrats’ chances To fill the seat – and with them the majority in the Senate.

The potentially history-making aspect of Allbrooks’ candidacy is not her central plan to voters, and many of her supporters have stressed that it is not about identity politics.

“If I didn’t like everything else about it, it wouldn’t be enough,” Pruitt said.

However, in a contest with few clear policy differences between the candidates on major federal issues, Alsobrooks makes her life experience a point of contrast with Trone — especially in a race where protecting abortion rights is a key part of the argument for retaining the seat. In the hands of Democrats. Trone also points out the stakes for November, making an electability argument about having the resources to defeat Hogan.

Brian Snyder – Reuters – Archive

In this October 2022 photo, then-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at the “Politics and White People” forum at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

But here in Maryland, a state where Cromer estimates Black voters in the Democratic primary are about 40 to 45 percent, the primary is not as simple as the politics of coalition for money. For example, Tron has his own support from black women, including some prominent local leaders from Albrooks’ backyard who have appeared in his attack ads.

When asked if electing a Black woman to the Senate was important to her, one Prince George’s County voter who walked out of the Target area in Bowie on Monday night was blunt.

“Not at this point. I, like, need to get the work done. There have been times when that has happened. At this point, I’ll vote for whoever I think will do the best job,” the 49-year-old French teacher said, noting that It wouldn’t be Albrooks because she was disappointed with her record as county executive.

“I have seen so many buildings being built without anything else,” said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation in the school system, which she said had “collapsed.”

But in a nod to the challenges ahead for Democrats, she paused after saying she was leaning toward Trone — noting that she “was very happy with Hogan as pandemic governor” — and then added: “However, I have to look at the long term.”

The women who walked with Albrooks through last Saturday’s drizzle — from the Silver Spring campaign office downtown to the local early voting site nearby, with a marching band alerting farmers foraging at the market along the way — easily rattled off their candidate’s accomplishments for schools and the local economy before they They talk about being a woman.

But that has been an undeniable part of Allbrooks’ appeal — when she talks about her experience as a domestic violence prosecutor, for example, or when she or her allies attack her businessman opponent because he donated to GOP governors who have since signed abortion restrictions. (He made those contributions up to business expenses and touted the millions he donated to Democrats.)

“Electing women is not just good for Maryland,” Alsobrooks told supporters gathered outside her campaign office. “America would do well to make sure women’s voices are included at these tables as we make important decisions.”

Ellen Malcolm, founder of Emily’s List — whose political action committee recently invested $2.5 million in the race — told the crowd: “We’re going to make history again,” noting how the powerful Democratic group came to prominence by helping raise awareness. Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski to the Senate in 1986.

The former senator backed Albrooks, as did The Washington Post, Gov. Wes Moore and every other Democratic member of the state’s current congressional delegation, except for one House member who backed Trone and retiring Sen. Ben Cardin, who has remained neutral. In the race to succeed him.

Allbrooks’ allies view this seat as an opportunity not only to maintain the status quo for a Black woman in the Senate, but also to increase the ranks. After California Rep. Barbara Lee failed to advance in November’s election, attention has turned to Delaware, where Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is running for an open Senate seat, and now to Maryland.

Maryland should play a role in diversifying the chamber, said Pamela Lockett, 67, of Silver Spring.

“As a leader of democracy across the country, it is very important that we do this – with someone qualified,” she added. “It’s not just about identity. She’s qualified, and she’s the most qualified candidate in this race.

But experience – which is even more important – has become a flashpoint that has also brought the conversation back to racing.

Trone, who was first elected to Congress in 2018, is relying on his voting record and says he will be able to convince 10 Republicans to sign on to legislation in the Senate to overcome the filibuster.

“That’s what really matters is getting things done, and not submitting to any special interests,” he said.

However, his campaign was criticized for an attack ad in which a local lawmaker said the Senate was “no place for training wheels.” More than 750 black women leaders wrote a letter saying Tron’s ads reflect “misogynistic and racist undertones.”

“This attempt to undermine Ms. Albrooks’ candidacy is deeply troubling and emblematic of the obstacles Black women face in political arenas,” they wrote.

This comment has been edited from the ad, but Tron himself told A.J Local NBC affiliate“This job is not for someone on training wheels.”

Albrooks did not hesitate to call him out, trying to compare his tones. “This type of insulting statement is what we’ve seen a lot of in Washington; “People are tired of it,” she told CNN last weekend. “It also shows what’s on his mind, which is that he has a very low opinion of women.”

When asked by CNN about the “training wheels” comment Tuesday night, Trone denied he said it, and took the words at the local lawmaker, but added: “Honestly, she doesn’t have the experience at the federal level.”

And he has some strong local alternatives from black women who make this argument for him, too.

“You can’t learn these things overnight — I learned them on Capitol Hill,” state Sen. Joan Benson told the crowd at a Women for Trone event in Bowie on Monday. “Do you understand that someone who is going to Capitol Hill has to deal with the likes of Donald Trump?”

Speaker after speaker at the rally in Albrooks County, for example, praised Trone’s hiring of formerly incarcerated people and his support from the teachers union.

Many black women here said his record surpasses any potential history Albrooks might make.

“It’s not that simple, because what you believe matters,” said Prince George’s County Councilwoman Crystal Oreada, who claimed that the practice of identity politics was a GOP tactic her party should be wary of.

“They lift someone up because they think because of identity politics, if you’re a woman or you’re Black, you’re going to forget about the issues and you’re going to ignore whether they’re actually aligned with what’s best for your community.”

Trone — who has also spent millions of his own money on his House campaigns — doesn’t talk about how much he’s spent, but his ability to self-fund is a big part of his pitch.

“We know that all the good things that should happen often don’t happen because of special interest money,” he told an audience at the AFI Silver Theater on Tuesday, arguing that he could stand up to the NRA and the pharmaceutical industry.

“By not accepting money from political action committees and special interests, I free up about 30% of my time to instead have time to build connection,” he added.

Troon’s supporters differentiate between his humble roots – he often talks about not having an indoor toilet when he grew up – and the politicians who inherited their wealth.

“Let’s be clear about this: He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” Benson told attendees at the Women for Thrones rally, praising his rags-to-riches story and recounting how he wrote a $10,000 check for a fortune. A scholarship fund she wanted to establish for her late sister.

Besides giving him an advertising and operational advantage, Trone also sees his money as a selling point for Democrats worried about holding the seat in November.

Albrooks was not short of resources, having raised nearly $7.8 million by the end of the reporting period before the April 24 primary. Glenda Carr, president, said she rose to the fundraising challenge that has often been an obstacle for Black women in politics. and CEO of Higher Heights for America, whose political action committee works to elect black women and supports Albrooks.

“The new barriers, if you follow the data, are a self-financing candidate,” Carr said.

But Albrooks’ supporters point out that Trone’s spending, while certainly getting his message across, did not put the race away from him.

For some, his ability to finance is itself a turn-off.

Returning to the pickles podium, Pruitt said: “We don’t need another millionaire, billionaire in the Senate. I feel kind of strong about that.”

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