5 things to watch in Maryland, West Virginia and Nebraska primaries

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Voters in Maryland, West Virginia and Nebraska will head to the polls Tuesday as several closely contested Senate and House races take shape. 

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is running against Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) for the Democratic nod to take on former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for a vacant seat that’s seen tens of millions of dollars spent so far this year.  

Trone’s decision to run for the Senate has left his House seat open, with a number of Democrats eyeing the seat, including a former Biden administration official and a Generation Z state delegate.  

Meanwhile, Rep. John Sarbanes’s (D-Md.) retirement is pitting a former U.S. Capitol Police officer who defended lawmakers during the Capitol riot against several state senators. 

Over in Nebraska, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) is running for reelection against a conservative hard-liner while several prominent Republicans are battling it out for the GOP primary in West Virginia’s governor’s race. 

Here are five things to watch in the Maryland, West Virginia and Nebraska primaries. 

Who wins the Maryland Democratic Senate primary?  

Alsobrooks and Trone are going head-to-head in the Old Line State to win the Democratic nod for outgoing Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) seat. Trone has spent $61 million alone, making it one of the most expensive Senate primaries this cycle.  

Alsobrooks, meanwhile, has enjoyed backing from much of the party establishment in Maryland, including from Gov. Wes Moore (D), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), among others.  

An Emerson College Polling/The Hill/DC News Now survey released last week found the two nearly in a dead heat, with Alsobrooks receiving 42 percent support and Trone receiving 41 percent, with the difference falling within the survey’s margin of error.  

Trone has made several stumbles amid his Senate campaign, including facing criticism after airing an ad in which one official vouching for Trone implied Alsobrooks needed “training wheels.” The Maryland Democrat was also forced to apologize following a House hearing where he mistakenly used a racial slur. 

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will take on Hogan, a popular former two-term governor. Though Democrats are favored to win the seat in November, Hogan’s entry is forcing Democrats to spend money in what was initially considered a safe race.  

What do the protest votes look like for Biden and Trump?  

Both President Biden and former President Trump have been forced to contend with protest votes as the president faces backlash over the White House administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, and Trump continues to lose votes to people supporting former rival Nikki Haley. 

Haley received 128,000 votes in the Indiana GOP primary last week — two months after she dropped out of the race against Trump. The former U.N. ambassador has also picked up not-insignificant portions of the GOP electorate in other states.

Trump defeated Biden in Indiana in 2020 by 16 points. Should Trump see similar or larger shares of GOP voters snub Trump in West Virginia, where he beat Biden by close to 40 points, and Nebraska, where he beat Biden by 19 points, they could portend more warning signs ahead of November. 

Both men are sure to contend with protest votes in Maryland as well, particularly given the state is home to Hogan, a prominent GOP Trump critic. Biden won Maryland by more than 30 points in 2020, but he could see a sizable portion of the primary electorate casting votes against him as the Israel-Hamas war bedevils the White House. 

Who emerges ahead in crowded Maryland House races? 

Several Democrats in Maryland are leaving their seats open this cycle, creating several competitive primaries. Sarbanes, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, announced last fall he would not seek reelection.  

The primary for his seat is a close match-up between former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who defended lawmakers during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, and two state legislators: Sarah Elfreth and Clarence Lam.  

Trone’s departure has also opened up another large Democratic contest, which includes April McClain Delaney, a former deputy assistant secretary for communications in the Commerce Department in the Biden administration and wife to former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), and Joe Vogel, a 26-year-old state delegate. 

Both seats are heavily Democratic-leaning ones, meaning whoever emerges the victor in each is considered the heavy favorite to win in November.  

Who comes out ahead in the West Virginia gubernatorial race? 

A small handful of Republicans in West Virginia with high name ID are battling it out to get the Republican nomination in the governor’s race to replace Gov. Jim Justice (R): state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey; businessman Chris Miller, whose mother is Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.); former state Rep. Moore Capito, whose mother is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and whose grandfather was a former governor; and Secretary of State Mac Warner.  

Justice endorsed Capito last month, though recent polling has largely seen Morrisey leading in first place.  

A flashpoint within the crowded GOP primary has surprisingly been a focus on transgender issues as candidates have sought to tack farther to the right. 

“You would think there are hordes of transgender [people] trying to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia. It’s absurd,” Charleston-based political strategist Tom Susman told The Hill.  

Does Don Bacon survive his primary challenge?  

Bacon is vying for a fifth term in the House, where he’s battling it out against conservative hard-liner Dan Frei.  

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chair of the House Freedom Caucus, waded into the GOP primary to back Frei — prompting Bacon to endorse Good’s challenger, John McGuire, as payback.  

Bacon is likely to come out ahead in the GOP primary, which will set him up for a rematch against state Sen. Tony Vargas, a Democrat. Bacon beat Vargas in 2022 by more than 2 points.

Still, the fact Bacon has seen at least one House GOP lawmaker wading into the primary against him underscores bitter divisions that have been roiling the party in the lower chamber since last year.

Bacon’s seat will be critical in House Republicans’ pursuit to hold onto their narrow majority this fall.  

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