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Contentious primaries in 3 states set up crucial general election matchups in House, Senate – What to know

Voters in Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia head to the polls on Tuesday in some competitive and contentious Democrat and Republican primaries that in a couple of cases will tee up crucial general election showdowns that may decide the House and Senate majorities.

The most high-profile of the May 14 primary contests is in Maryland, where Republicans are aiming to flip a Senate seat long held by the Democrats in one of the bluest states in the nation.

Popular former two-term Gov. Larry Hogan is considered the overwhelming front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination in a field of more than a half dozen Republican candidates.

“We like where Larry’s at,” Senate Republican campaign committee chair Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told Fox News Digital last week. “We know that’s going to be a tough race because Maryland is a blue state, but it’s a Hogan state first and foremost.”

WHY SENATE GOP CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE CHAIR IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT WINNING BACK MAJORITY

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican candidate for Senate, speaks to patrons at a pub in Frederick, Maryland, on April 6, 2024. (Fox News/Matthew Reidy)

With Democrats hoping to protect their fragile 51-49 majority in the Senate, Hogan’s late entry into the Maryland Senate race in February gave them an unexpected headache in a state that was previously considered safe territory.

As Hogan cruises toward the GOP nomination, the Democrat Senate primary in the race to succeed retiring longtime Sen. Ben Cardin is grabbing the spotlight. It’s a battle between big bucks and high-profile endorsements between the two leading contenders in the 10-candidate field, and it’s also a fight over whether electability outweighs diversity.

“If Larry Hogan wins,” three-term Rep. David Trone, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, says in his closing campaign commercial, “we lose more than the majority. We lose a woman’s right to choose – could lose Social Security. And with Trump knocking on the door, lose democracy itself.”

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Trone, the co-founder and co-owner of Total Wine and More, has dished out more than $50 million of his own money to his campaign.

“The polls say I’m the only candidate who can beat Larry Hogan. And I intend to use every ounce of my energy to do just that. The stakes are just too damn high,” he said in one of his final ads.

Trone has massively outspent Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a Black woman who steers Maryland’s second-most populous county, which is located in suburban D.C. But he’s also sparked controversy with a couple of verbal miscues.

David Trone, Angela Alsobrooks

Rep. David Trone, D-Md., and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Alsobrooks enjoys the backing of much of the state’s Democrat establishment, including endorsements from Gov. Wes Moore, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and five House members.

Alsobrooks, pushing back in a recent ad on insinuations from Trone that she’s not experienced enough to handle the Senate, argued that “while my opponent focuses on fighting, I’ll focus on working for you.”

Pointing to Alsobrooks and Trone, Hogan told Fox News’ Mark Meredith on the eve of the primary that “I don’t know which one’s going to limp out of that primary. But we’ll be ready.”

While Democrats control the Senate now, Republicans are looking at a favorable election map this year with Democrats defending 23 of the 34 seats up for grabs.

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Three of those seats are in red states that former President Trump carried in 2020: Ohio, Montana and also West Virginia, where Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is not running for re-election.

“The first state that we know that we’re going to win at this point is West Virginia,” Daines said. “There’s one pickup seat right there.”

Republican Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, who is term-limited, is the favorite to win Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary.

A billionaire businessman who owns the state’s famed Greenbrier Resort and a Democrat who became a Republican seven years ago, Justice is part of a crowded field of GOP candidates where conservative Rep. Alex Mooney is his main competitor.

Jim Justice and Alex Mooney

Republican Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., left, and GOP West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (Getty | AP Photo/Chris Jackson)

The Republican nominee will be considered the overwhelming favorite in November to flip the Democrat-held seat. Don Blankenship, a former coal company CEO who was convicted of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards, is running in a field that also includes Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, who has Manchin’s endorsement, and Marine Corps veteran Zach Shrewsbury, who has the backing of progressive groups.

While Republicans aim to recapture the Senate majority for the first time in four years, Democrats are looking to take back control of the House, which they lost by a razor-thin margin in the 2022 midterms.

And one of the Republican-held seats they are eyeing is Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which is anchored by Omaha and its surrounding suburbs.

Four-term Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, is one of 16 Republican members of Congress representing a district that President Biden carried in the 2020 election.

Don Bacon

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images/File)

He’s facing a challenge from his party’s right flank from candidate Dan Frei, who is backed by Nebraska’s state GOP. A primary victory by Frei would be considered a political gift to Democrats as they aim to flip the district in November.

In a very rare occurrence, both of Nebraska’s Republican senators are up for election this year and both face nomination opposition in Tuesday’s primary.

Sen. Deb Fischer is seeking a third six-year term in the Senate. Sen. Pete Ricketts, a former governor, is running to finish the remaining two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Ben Sasse, who stepped down in 2023 to become University of Florida president.

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In West Virginia, with Justice term-limited and running for the Senate, the GOP gubernatorial primary is taking center stage. 

State attorney general Patrick Morrisey, the 2018 Republican Senate nominee, former state Rep. Moore Capito (the son of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore Jr.), auto dealer Chris Miller (son of Rep. Carol Miller), and West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner are among the candidates.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is unopposed for the Democrats’ gubernatorial nomination.

Trump and Biden

President Biden and former President Trump (AP Photo/Alex Brandon | Curtis Means/DailyMail.com via AP/Pool)

All three states will be holding presidential primaries, where Biden and Trump – who’ve both long since clinched their respective Democrat and Republican nominations – look to pad their delegate totals.

But Tuesday’s primaries could provide further headaches for both candidates, with the likelihood of more “uncommitted” votes in the Democrat primaries to protest the president’s support for Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza. In the GOP contests, expect a small percentage of continued support for former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was the final Trump challenger for the Republican nomination before ending her White House bid more than two months ago.

Fox News’ Mark Meredith, Matthew Reidy, Jamie Vera, Deirdre Heavey and James Levinson contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.


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