Republicans advance Senate candidates in West Virginia, Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan won Republican Senate nominations on Tuesday as voters across neighboring states with antithetical politics decided contests with big implications for the Senate majority fight this fall.

At the same time, Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican rival Donald Trump tried to project strength in low-stakes presidential primaries. 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.

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 were more consequential than Senate primaries in deep-blue Maryland and deep-red West Virginia, where Republicans are eying opportunities that could flip control of Congress’ upper chamber for at least two years.

Maryland

In Maryland, Hogan claimed the Republican Senate nomination, giving Republicans a legitimate chance at picking up a Senate seat in the deep-blue state for the first time in more than four decades.

Hogan overcame his years-long criticism of Trump, a position that put him at odds with many Republican primary voters but will undoubtedly help him in the general election this fall. Maryland voters gave Biden a 33-point victory over Trump four years ago.

On the Democratic side, Representative 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.

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

West Virginia

Justice won his primary against U.S. Representative Alex Mooney in the race to replace Senator Joe Manchin. With Manchin gone, the seat is almost guaranteed to turn red come November.

Justice, a former billionaire with a folksy personality, is wildly popular in the state. He also earned Trump’s endorsement. A former Democrat, Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017, announcing the change at a Trump rally.

Mooney had tried to win over conservatives by labeling Justice as someone 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.

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 Representative Moore Capito, whose mother is Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Presidential primary

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.

Both Biden and Trump won their primaries in West Virginia and Maryland.

Still, Maryland progressives especially unhappy with the Biden administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas had encouraged voters to select “uncommitted to any presidential candidate” instead of Biden. There was 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.

Meanwhile, Trump’s Republican critics cannot choose “uncommitted,” but they can choose his former Republican 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, West Virginia, said he supported Haley, and in other Republican races, he said he voted for the candidates he believed were least like Trump.

Other key races

In Nebraska, Republican Senators 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. Representative Don Bacon faces a challenge from his right flank.

In North Carolina, voters finalized their pick of the Trump-endorsed Brad Knott in what had become a one-person Republican primary in the state’s 13th Congressional District.

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