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Primaries in Maryland and West Virginia will shape the battle this fall for a Senate majority – Boulder Daily Camera

By BRIAN WITTE, LEAH WILLINGHAM and STEVE PEOPLES (Associated Press)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Voters across Maryland and West Virginia will decide key primary elections Tuesday with big implications in the fight for the Senate majority this fall.

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

In all, three states are hosting statewide primary elections on Tuesday — Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia — as Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees for a slate of fall elections. None are more consequential than Senate primaries in Maryland and West Virginia, where Republicans are eying pickup opportunities that could flip control of Congress’ upper chamber for at least two years.

A TRUMP CRITIC VIES FOR MARYLAND’S GOP NOMINATION

In Maryland, Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan expects to dominate the state’s GOP Senate primary despite his years-long criticism of Trump, whom Hogan describes as a threat to democracy. The former two-term governor would be the blue state’s first Republican senator in more than four decades.

It’s unclear whether Trump loyalists will ultimately embrace Hogan. In all, six other Republicans are challenging the 67-year-old former governor.

On the Democratic side, Rep. 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.

Race has been an issue in the primary, with Alsobrooks working to become Maryland’s first Black U.S. senator. Trone apologized in March for what he said was the inadvertent use of a racial slur during a budget hearing.

Alsobrooks, who serves as chief executive of Maryland’s second-largest jurisdiction with the state’s largest number of registered Democrats, has been endorsed by many of the state’s top officials, including Gov. Wes Moore, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Steny Hoyer and a long list of state lawmakers.

She has campaigned on growing economic opportunity, investing in education and protecting abortion rights.

THE WEST VIRGINIA BATTLE TO REPLACE MANCHIN

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, the Republican Senate primary is likely to decide retiring Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s replacement given the state’s overwhelming Republican tilt.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney are the leading GOP candidates. With Manchin gone, the seat is almost guaranteed to turn red come November.

The Trump-endorsed Justice, a former billionaire with a folksy personality that’s made him wildly popular in the state, is the front-runner against Mooney and five other lesser-known Republicans. A former Democrat, Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017. He announced the change at a Trump rally.

Mooney has tried to win over conservatives by labeling Justice a “RINO” — which stands for “Republican in name only” — 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. Mooney voted against it.

On the other side, Democrats are choosing between Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, who has Manchin’s endorsement, and Marine Corps veteran Zach Shrewsbury, who has support from the Progressive Democrats of America. Also in the Democratic primary: former Republican Don Blankenship, who was convicted of violating safety standards after 29 people died in a 2010 coal mine explosion.

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 the sons of two members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation: car dealer Chris Miller, whose mother is Rep. Carol Miller, and former state Rep. Moore Capito, whose mother is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is also in the GOP race.

On the Democratic side, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is unopposed.

TESTS OF STRENGTH IN THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

There’s far less drama in Tuesday’s presidential primaries.

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