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At the Races: And the winner is … the target of this attack

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In a Democratic primary for an open Senate seat in Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks endured an onslaught of negative ads from Rep. David Trone, who spent more than $60 million of his own money.  

In a Republican primary for a battleground seat in Nebraska, four-term incumbent Rep. Don Bacon weathered criticism from grassroots activists in his own party who derided him as a big-spending RINO.

But for both candidates, winning the primary was only half the battle. As they celebrated their victories Tuesday night, the opposition was busy churning out a barrage of attacks that aim to lay the groundwork for the next six months.

“Angela Alsobrooks underfunded law enforcement while crime is skyrocketing in her county,” Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the NRSC, said in a statement. Alsobrooks’ GOP opponent, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, will work across the aisle to achieve results in Washington, Daines said.

Not so fast, countered the DSCC, which launched a digital ad Tuesday night reminding Maryland voters that Hogan is a lifelong Republican who would caucus with the GOP.

Both parties also went on the attack in Nebraska shortly after The Associated Press called the race for Bacon. 

House Majority PAC, which backs Democrats, said Bacon is “an extremist who has pushed an anti-choice, anti-American agenda.” Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the DCCC, said Bacon “will do whatever it takes to gain power and protect his political career, even falling in line with Trump’s MAGA agenda when it hurts Nebraska families.”

Republicans defended Bacon and turned their sights to his Democratic rival, state Sen. Tony Vargas. “As a former brigadier general and strong, commonsense legislator, there is no one better suited to serve Nebraska voters than Don Bacon,” said Delanie Bomar, spokeswoman for the NRCC. Vargas, she said, is an “out-of-touch” liberal.

The intensity and swiftness of the attacks reflect the stakes for both parties in two must-win contests.

Starting gate

#MDSEN: Maryland Democrats are looking to move past the Senate primary and are confident that voters will support Alsobrooks because they’ll want to keep the Senate in Democratic control. But Republicans argue that Hogan’s maverick brand will remind voters why they elected him to the governor’s mansion twice. Leaning into that brand, Hogan’s campaign released an ad Thursday that features many Democratic officials, including Alsobrooks, praising Hogan. In an interview Thursday with the New York Times, Hogan said he supports federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, which he previously had said he still needed to consider.

Primary roundup: In other primaries Tuesday, voters denied two House candidates in different states who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a path to serve in the House. In Maryland, Harry Dunn, the former Capitol Police officer, lost a Democratic primary to state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, while Republican Derrick Evans, who served three months in federal prison for his involvement in the attack that day, lost a primary challenge to Rep. Carol Miller. The victory by Elfreth, along with other results on Tuesday, means as many as three women could join Maryland’s currently all-male delegation next year.

Louisiana lines: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said Louisiana’s congressional elections can go forward this year using maps that establish a pair of Black opportunity districts, Michael Macagnone reports. The new map most affects GOP Rep. Garret Graves, whose race is now rated Likely Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

If he can make it there: Speaker Mike Johnson made his way to New York, New York, on Tuesday, joining the steady stream of Republicans heading to the courthouse to speak in defense of former President Donald Trump. Macagnone has more on the speaker’s visit. Another cavalcade of House Republicans is in New York on Thursday, with the House Oversight and Accountability Committee pushing back a meeting on a contempt action against Attorney General Merrick B. Garland until 8 p.m. in what appears to be a move to accommodate those members.

Election focus: The Senate Rules and Administration Committee advanced a trio of bills aimed at the use of artificial intelligence technology in campaigns and elections, Justin Papp reports, while the Intelligence Committee heard about threats posed to elections by foreign actors and AI, Ryan Tarinelli reports.

Point person: Vice President Kamala Harris has emerged as a leader on the Biden campaign’s push to highlight abortion rights, John T. Bennett reports. “She has a unique set of experiences that has given her a firsthand experience,” a White House official told Bennett, noting Harris’ time as a prosecutor and senator from California. “She took stock of the important moment we’re in and felt that it was important to highlight the true impact since the Dobbs decision on people’s lives.” 

ICYMI

Endorsement watch: Retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton endorsed Democratic state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam to succeed her in the 10th District. The Washington Post editorial board, however, endorsed Del. Dan Helmer in that primary, while endorsing retired Army Lt. Col. Alex Isaac for the Republican nomination. The Post also backed Yevgeny “Eugene” Vindman in the 7th District’s Democratic primary and former Army Green Beret Derrick Anderson in the GOP contest. 

Vindman in Virginia: Vindman’s congressional bid is getting treated to “unusually sharp denunciations” from area Democrats, according to Alex Roarty, writing for NOTUS. The seat is open because incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger decided to run for governor in 2025 instead.

GOP on GOP: Defending Main Street, a super PAC affiliated with the Republican Main Street Caucus, is spending more than $450,000 to try to oust Virginia Rep. Bob Good, the House Freedom Caucus chair, by supporting his primary opponent, state Sen. John McGuire.

Home is where the campaign is: Paul Bondar, a former insurance agent from Illinois and one of four Republicans seeking to unseat Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, is facing questions about his residency. Bondar owns a home outside Dallas, holds a Texas driver’s license and voted in the Texas primary on March 5, according to a report on KFOR. Bondar told the Oklahoma City television station that he’s building a ranch in Durant, Okla., which is outside the boundaries of the 4th District, and registered to vote in Oklahoma on April 3, according to Oklahoma Voice. While the Constitution doesn’t require candidates to live within the district they are seeking to represent, it does stipulate that they must live in the state.

Ad watch: House Majority PAC released an ad supporting Rep. Don Davis, touting his military service and how he grew up on a farm as he faces a competitive reelection in eastern North Carolina. Republican Yvette Herrell, who’s challenging Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez for her old seat in New Mexico, released an ad tying Vasquez to the recent pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. 

Party predicament: Dan Osborn, a union leader waging a long-shot campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, declared this week that he won’t seek any party’s nomination. “I’m independent…. I won’t be sucking up to anyone,” he said. His announcement came after the deadline for candidates to qualify for the November ballot and left Democrats in a lurch, said Jane Kleeb, the party’s chairwoman. “Dan has told the Democratic party that he wants the party’s endorsement and asked us to keep our ballot line open so we could form a coalition,” she said. “We kept our word to Dan, and now that he has betrayed that trust we will put forward a write-in candidate to represent the Democratic Party.” Osborn is one of the first Senate candidates to draw a salary from his campaign after the Federal Election Commission made it easier for candidates to do so.

Meddling in the Beaver State: A new PAC with ties to Republicans has begun running ads supporting Jamie McLeod-Skinner, one of two Democrats vying to unseat Republican freshman Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. McLeod-Skinner, who narrowly lost to Chavez-DeRemer in 2022, is battling Janelle Bynum for the nomination next week, and Bynum’s spokeswoman told the AP the more liberal McLeod-Skinner is “House Republicans’ dream opponent because they know they can beat her.”

AIPAC ad blitz: United Democracy Project started running ads opposing New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who’s facing a primary challenge from AIPAC-backed Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin flags. In its first ad opposing Bowman, the group says Bowman “refuses to compromise, even with President Biden,” and highlights Bowman’s votes against a bipartisan infrastructure bill and against a measure to raise the debt limit. Jacob also highlighted a UDP ad buy ahead of GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales’ runoff on May 28.

What we’re reading

80 for Senate: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King, both independents who caucus with Democrats, are seeking reelection in their 80s but aren’t receiving the same level of scrutiny as Biden, 81, is in his campaign for a second term. 

Pool-playing pol: The Los Angeles Times introduces readers to Laura Friedman, the thrift-shopping, billiards-playing Democrat who is heavily favored to win the LA-area seat being vacated by Rep. Adam B. Schiff. 

Georgia, Georgia: Sen. Raphael Warnock has emerged as a key surrogate for President Joe Biden, especially in Georgia, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. An “invaluable partner” was how Warnock’s former campaign manager, who is now deputy campaign manager for Biden in Wilmington, Del., described his former boss’s role.

Origin story: The New York Times examined Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches personal narrative and found that the Ohio Republican Senate nominee omitted some key details.

Mod squad moves on: Five Democratic women with national security backgrounds flipped Republican seats in 2018, and their support for impeachment hearings of Trump the following year was crucial to advancing Democrats’ effort. Semafor looks at how three of those women are now eyeing higher office and what their departure could mean for the House. 

The count: $100

That’s how much average income growth exceeded inflation for the one-fifth of Americans in the middle of the income scale from 2019 through 2023, according to a report released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office. “For households in every quintile (or fifth) of the income distribution … income grew faster than prices did over that four-year period,” the report stated. Within different income groups, the excess varied greatly. But for the middle income group, CBO said prices increased by an average of “roughly $3,000 annually” while “adjusted income after transfers and taxes rose by an average of $3,100 annually.”

Nathan’s notes

New race ratings from Inside Elections say it’s no longer a Toss-up who fills the Arizona Senate seat that independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema won’t defend, while the indictment of Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th District means his race is no longer Solid Democratic.

Key race: #NJ08

Candidates: Freshman Rep. Rob Menendez, son (but not “junior”) of the senator whose bribery and corruption trial began this week, faces a Democratic primary challenge on June 4 from Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. Kyle Jasey, who runs a Jersey City real estate financing business with his wife, is also on the ballot.

Why it matters: Menendez hasn’t been linked in any way to the charges his father is facing, but Bhalla hopes to tap the anger Democrats may have over the state’s infamous history of corruption. The incumbent has the Democratic organization backing that usually locks in nominations in urban New Jersey counties — but that advantage could be dulled after Senate candidate Andy Kim, the first House Democrat to call for Sen. Menendez’s resignation and the favorite in the primary for his seat, won a federal lawsuit barring Democrats from using the county organization “line,” a primary ballot format that bracketed endorsed candidates together and often left challengers’ names dangling.

Cash dash: Menendez reported raising $1.4 million and had $1.2 million on hand on March 31, compared with $1.6 million raised and $1 million on hand for Bhalla. Jasey raised $51,000 and had less than $9,000. Outside groups have spent $581,000 supporting Menendez, dominated by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC’s outlay of $486,000. A new super PAC called America’s Promise, which says on its website it is working to “elect qualified Sikh candidates at every level,” spent $205,000 on ads attacking Menendez for standing by his father. 

Backers: Along with Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, both of whom have called on Sen. Menendez to resign, Rep. Menendez’s list of endorsements include House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and numerous local officials in the district. Bhalla’s backers include the president of the City Council in Jersey City, members of the Hoboken City Council, the AAPI Victory Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity Action. 

What they’re saying: Bhalla says he’s running against “the Menendez machine.” In an unidentified video interview on his Facebook page, he says, “The congressman is not to blame for what his father is alleged to have done, but I am very concerned as a resident of the 8th District that the congressman himself is not concerned about the fact that his father’s being accused of being a foreign agent for the government of Egypt.” Menendez tells InsiderNJ that not only did Bhalla endorse him in 2022, “he campaigned for me” and is talking about his father “to muddy the waters.”

Terrain: The densely populated district stretches from the Hudson River waterfront — the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and PATH subway lines from New York City empty out here — across the Meadowlands and Newark Bay into part of Newark, including about half of Newark Liberty International Airport. Roughly 80 percent of the votes come from a handful of communities in Hudson County, including Bhalla’s hometown of Hoboken (pop. 59,369) and Union City (pop. 67,903), where Menendez grew up and his father was once mayor and state senator. Some 52 percent of the district is Hispanic or Latino, according to the Census Bureau. Menendez won the June 2022 primary against two challengers with 83 percent and beat six opponents that November with 74 percent of the vote.

Wild card: Even without “the line,” municipal organizations are key in Democratic primaries in Hudson, and Menendez has the backing of Union City Mayor Brian Stack and West New York (pop. 52,485) Mayor Albio Sires. Sires succeeded the elder Menendez in the House when he became a senator in 2006, then retired after eight terms and was replaced by Menendez’s son.

Coming up

Voters in California’s 20th District will pick a replacement for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who resigned in December, while Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon hold congressional primaries.

Photo finish

Hours before easily winning Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary despite being heavily outspent, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, right, gets a fist bump from Gov. Wes Moore at Lewisdale Elementary School in Chillum. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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