Analysis: Primary results were not as close as some polls showed; $300 per vote was not enough to win

Analysis: Primary results were not as close as some polls showed; $300 per vote was not enough to win

State Sen. Sarah Elfreth talks to supporters Tuesday night in Annapolis. While she was the apparent winner of the Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District, she said she would not claim victory till all the votes were counted. MarylandReporter.com photo by Len Lazarick

It wasn’t even close.

Polling in primaries when many voters are undecided and turnout is low is notoriously unreliable. Surveys were showing close Democratic races for the U.S. Senate and the 3rd Congressional District, but those weren’t even close.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks scored a blowout against U.S. Rep. David Trone. It was hard to imagine her getting 54% of the vote when Trone plowed a ridiculous $60 million of his own money into the race, outspending her by at least 8 to 1. In a national record for self-funding, Trone will have spent more than $300 per vote in a losing cause.

Maybe the support for Alsobrooks by almost the entire Democratic establishment in Maryland really did help.

In the 3rd Congressional District, state Sen. Sarah Elfreth was not claiming victory Tuesday night. But she had won a surprising 35% of the vote in a field of 22 candidates that included four other state legislators and a big-spending national celebrity, former Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn.

As a well-known defender of the Capitol against the Jan. 6 riot, Dunn had been able to raise over $4.5 million in small donations, much more than the  $1.4 million Elfreth had raised on her own. Dunn too will have spent more than $300 per vote.

But in a surprise move by a pro-Israel political action committee partially funded by Trump-supporting Republicans, the United Democracy Project funneled $4.2 million into the race for Elfreth. Its many ads and mailers backing Elfreth sometimes bashed Trump and MAGA Republicans and never mentioned Israel.

The Israel-Gaza war was not a big issue in the contest. But Tuesday night, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, congratulated Elfreth as “a strong pro-Israel progressive.”

Elfreth also had significant union support, including the teachers.

The backing by the state and national teachers union did not help Trone or freshman Del. Joe Vogel in the 6th Congressional District. There April McClain Delaney, the wife of former congressman John Delaney, got 39% of the vote in another crowded field of 16 candidates, outspending most of them.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Larry Hogan finished his teleprompter-aided victory speech to a boisterous ballroom of supporters just an hour after polls closed.

Hogan and Alsobrooks will go at in the fall in a race that will attract multi-millions in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. A troubling sign for Hogan was that perennial candidate Robin Ficker got 30% of the vote with a very Trumpian message about immigration. Will the Trump wing of the Republican Party in Maryland embrace Hogan’s anti-Trump bipartisan message in the fall?

About The Author

Len Lazarick

len@marylandreporter.com

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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