In Deep-Blue Maryland, a Democratic Primary Turns Uncommonly Competitive

Wearing white Chuck Taylor sneakers with her gray pantsuit, Angela Alsobrooks was in the middle of a whirlwind day of campaigning in the vote-rich suburbs of Maryland last week when a voter confronted her with the question on everyone’s mind: Was she the candidate with the best chance of keeping the state’s up-for-grabs seat in the United States Senate in Democratic hands?

It’s an unfamiliar question for deep-blue Maryland, which hasn’t had a Republican senator in nearly four decades. But the state’s typically sleepy Senate race has heated up this year after Larry Hogan, the popular former two-term Republican governor, decided to run.

Now Democrats across the state are wringing their hands trying to figure out which of their candidates has a better shot at defeating Mr. Hogan. The primary, which is set for Tuesday, pits Ms. Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s County executive who is trying to become the first Black person and second woman from Maryland to serve in the Senate, against Representative David Trone, a wealthy third-term congressman who is smashing self-financing records — he has spent more than $61 million of his own money, flooding the airwaves with TV ads — to secure a victory.

Perhaps because of the heightened stakes, the contest has turned increasingly negative as it has tightened, splitting Democrats in Congress and beyond. While congressional leaders have endorsed Mr. Trone, all but one Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation are backing Ms. Alsobrooks. She also drew support from several Black lawmakers from other states after Mr. Trone used a racial slur at a congressional hearing — a remark for which he later apologized, saying he meant to say a different word.

Barbara Peart, 76, the voter who questioned Ms. Alsobrooks last week about her chances, said she did so because she was terrified that a Republican could win the seat and flip the Senate, boosting the agenda of former President Donald J. Trump.

“It’s scary because it’s no exaggeration that it’s the most important race in a long time,” Mrs. Peart, a Democrat from Columbia, Md., said. “We can’t afford to lose the Senate.”

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