Seeking History in Maryland, and Zombie Campaigns Linger: Primary Takeaways

Hundreds of thousands of voters in Maryland, West Virginia and Nebraska went to the polls on Tuesday, weighing in on primaries whose results pointed to a desire for moderation, achievement and diversity, and a rejection of the political power of money.

And what about those zombie campaigns in both parties’ presidential races? Nikki Haley had a pretty good night for a candidate who long ago dropped her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Here are four takeaways:

Representative David Trone, a co-owner of the giant alcohol retailer Total Wine and More, gave up his safe House seat, spent more than $60 million of his fortune and lost the Senate Democratic primary to Angela Alsobrooks, who hopes to become only the third Black woman to be elected to Congress’s upper chamber.

In a showdown between money and history, history won.

Maryland would ordinarily have been a safe bet for Democrats hoping to hold the seat of Senator Ben Cardin upon his retirement, but the entry of Larry Hogan, a popular former governor and Republican moderate, into the race has scrambled the equation. Democrats initially were happy to have Mr. Trone as their nominee, knowing they wouldn’t have to spend a dime for him in the general election.

But senior Democrats in Maryland and around the country came to believe they needed a candidate who could inspire their base voters in Baltimore and the suburbs of Washington to come out in November to beat Mr. Hogan, an anti-Trump Republican who proved his bipartisan appeal with two governor’s race victories in his blue state.

Ms. Alsobrooks crushed Mr. Trone in her home base, the diverse Washington suburbs of Prince George’s County, where she is the county executive. She beat him in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and suburban Howard County. She even narrowly beat him in his home base, Montgomery County, a Washington suburb with some of the most affluent communities in the country.

The Cook Political Report rates the seat likely Democratic, even with Mr. Hogan now the Republican standard-bearer, but the coming campaign will be hard fought. If Ms. Alsobrooks and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, Democrat of Delaware, both win their Senate contests in November, voters will have doubled the number of Black women elected to the Senate in American history, and for the first time ever, two Black women will serve in the Senate at once.

In the most online, partisan Democratic circles, Harry Dunn was a star, a burly Capitol Police officer who battled a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, testified before the House committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol and then ran for the House he had defended at risk to his life.

He may have lived slightly outside the House district he wanted to represent. He may have had no political experience. But he was the candidate running to “save democracy.”

On Tuesday, he was beaten by a soft-spoken workhorse, State Senator Sarah Elfreth, in a Democratic primary almost certain to determine who will represent Maryland’s Third House District next year.

Mr. Dunn had raised nearly $4.6 million from across the country by the end of April and dominated the airwaves. Ms. Elfreth raised $1.5 million and had the backing of the United Democracy Project, a pro-Israel political action committee affiliated with the American Israel Political Affairs Committee.

But she had something Mr. Dunn didn’t have: legislative experience and a record in the Democratic political trenches.

Two House primaries on Tuesday offered some clues to just how far right the Republican Party was moving as its presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump, rose back to center stage. In both Nebraska and West Virginia, the mainstream of the G.O.P. prevailed.

In Nebraska’s swing district around Omaha, Representative Don Bacon, who has a reputation as an independent voice, faced off against Dan Frei, a conservative challenger backed by the state’s Republican Party, a pro-Trump bastion. Mr. Bacon held that a Frei victory in the primary would hand his seat to the Democrats in November. On Tuesday, Mr. Bacon trounced Mr. Frei, setting up a much tougher race for the Democratic nominee, State Senator Tony Vargas.

In West Virginia, Derrick Evans, an unrepentant rioter arrested after participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, challenged Representative Carol Miller in a safe Republican seat. Ms. Miller is no moderate, but she isn’t a rioter. The incumbent whipped the insurgent.

President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump, absent an unexpected catastrophe, will be their parties’ nominees for the White House, but with no one running against either man in the primaries, opposition keeps cropping up. For Mr. Biden, in heavily Democratic Maryland, it came in the form of “uncommitted” — around one in 10 Democratic primary voters cast their ballots that way, many of them presumably protesting his support for Israel in the war in Gaza. And 3.3 percent went for the defunct candidacies of Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips.

In West Virginia, 20 percent of the voters in the Democratic primary opted for marginal candidates named Jason Palmer and Stephen Lyons. Mr. Phillips, a representative from Minnesota, collected around 8 percent of the Democratic vote in Nebraska.

Unity was even less in evidence on the Republican side. Long out of the race, former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina nonetheless won around 20 percent of the vote in Maryland and Nebraska. Even in West Virginia, the deepest of Trump country, Ms. Haley got nearly one in 10 Republican votes.

Where these voters go in November could be critical. They don’t show up in polling, but they keep showing up at the polls.

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