Angela Alsobrooks says she has spent the last 27 years preparing for this moment.

A Democrat in her second term leading Maryland’s second-largest county, Alsobrooks — the first woman and Black woman elected to the position — said her life’s work has culminated in this: a bid for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. Dozens of Democrats have lined up to endorse her, including the state party’s leader, Gov. Wes Moore. If she wins, she would be the third Black woman ever elected to the chamber.

Despite the political star power behind Alsobrooks’ campaign, the longtime public servant has trailed in most polls. She faces a steep, uphill battle against U.S. Rep. David Trone, who has poured $41.8 million, and counting, of his own money into the race. Since the fall, he has blitzed radio, television and social media with advertisements bearing his name and face while the Alsobrooks campaign has been slower to ramp up.

But the race remains competitive, Alsobrooks said, despite the Trone deluge.

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“This man’s spent $40 million trying to erase me, and guess what? I’m still here,” she told a crowd of supporters in Upper Marlboro in April. “And you know what? We’re gonna win the race in spite of it.”

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks takes a photo with supporters during a meet-and-greet at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia in February. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Either Trone or Alsobrooks is likely to face former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November, a race that could help decide control of the Senate.

Alsobrooks said she has the resume, skills and support needed to take on Hogan in the fall — three things the Trone campaign has looked to exploit. He has sought to cast his competitor as a tougher sell to Maryland voters — one who has alienated key allies, burned bridges and used identity politics to shield a more blemished record.

‘She’s the real thing’

A Prince George’s County native who served as the county’s first full-time domestic violence prosecutor and later its first Black woman state’s attorney, Alsobrooks, 53, can tout improvements in public safety, economic development and resources for the county’s neediest residents.

Her firewall of high-profile endorsements speaks to her record, she said, as well as her ability to build coalitions.

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“You don’t get that broad of endorsement if you’re not a person of substance,” said longtime U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, one of Alsobrooks’ fiercest political allies, at a campaign stop last month. “They know whether she’s the real thing or a fraud. They know when she says, she does.”

While she has won nearly 200 endorsements across Maryland, as well as from AFRO News and The Washington Post editorial board, she has lost out on the backing of a handful of important colleagues she’s worked closely with in Prince George’s County, including Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, who used to represent the county, and her successor in the state’s attorney’s office, Aisha Braveboy.

In a new television ad that aired last weekend featuring state Sen. Joanne Benson, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk and other Prince George’s County politicians, they knocked Alsobrooks’ lack of experience in national politics and her lack of focus on diverse communities.

“The U.S. Senate is not a place for training wheels,” Prince George’s County Councilman Edward Burroughs says in the ad.

If Alsobrooks has learned anything over nearly three decades in public office, she says, it’s this: “Never take it personal.”

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“The thing that remains constant for me has been: Who do we work with to get things done?” she said in an April interview in her office at campaign headquarters. “I have come to understand over the years that a person who may not align with you today, very well may align with you tomorrow.”

As a mom to a college-aged daughter who is also helping to care for aging parents, Alsobrooks said many of those who have recommended her for the job have acknowledged that she brings something new to the table that Trone can’t match.

“I juggle things that I know the men in these races don’t do, at all,” she said. “It’s just been a heck of a fight.”

Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, right, endorses gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore in March 2022 at the Moore campaign's office opening in that county. Moore went on to win the Democratic primary and the general election.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, right, endorses gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore in March 2022 at the Moore campaign office opening in that county. Moore went on to win the Democratic primary and the general election. (Pamela Wood)

A two-decade record

At campaign stops, Alsobrooks has mastered her Senate pitch, a nod to her years delivering opening and closing arguments in county courtrooms.

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In interviews, questioned about more personal subjects, she often demurs. She prefers to remain diplomatic — which sometimes means staying tight-lipped even as others bare more of their souls.

“That’s what you need in the Senate,” said Jolene Ivey, a former state delegate and Prince George’s County councilwoman who is married to U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey. “You need a body of diplomacy, and she’s certainly demonstrated that to an outsized degree.”

Alsobrooks’ story starts with her family, whose own grit and determination in the Black working class allowed her to attend prestigious schools and gave her the itch for public service. She’s a person of faith, she added, raised in a spiritual home that taught her to, above all else, “do good.”

Born in Prince George’s County to James, a Washington Post newspaper distributor and car salesman, and Patricia, a receptionist, Alsobrooks attended Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, a magnet school in Washington, D.C., where she served as president of the student body and as president of the citywide student government association. She went on to study at Duke University for her undergraduate degree and then University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

In second grade, Alsobrooks said teachers complained she spent too much time away from her seat. Instead, she was working the room, approaching other students with a “How you doing, baby?”

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“I feel like I’m still kind of doing it, you know?” Alsobrooks said, adding she knows all the employees behind the counters at the grocery and convenience stores where she shops.

In 1997, Alsobrooks went to work as an assistant state’s attorney in Prince George’s County as the first full-time prosecutor for domestic violence cases, a role she loved. Then, after two terms working under former County Executive Jack B. Johnson — who later pleaded guilty to extortion and witness- and evidence-tampering as part of a federal investigation into political corruption in the county — Alsobrooks ran and won a 2009 race for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney and served two terms.

She credits Vice President Kamala Harris with inspiring her state’s attorney bid and influencing her approach to crime, justice and second chances. As state’s attorney, Alsobrooks spearheaded a program that aimed to decrease truancy among middle-school aged children, and created an initiative for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders that offered them access to community college, job training and mentorship in exchange for a one-time expungement of their felony records.

Violent crime dropped in Maryland by 33% during her two terms, but the most precipitous drop in the state was recorded in Prince George’s County, according to a Banner data analysis, with a 58% decline.

In 2017, Alsobrooks said she launched a bid for the county executive seat to help allocate more resources to people in need of “first chances,” or resources to help even the playing field starting at birth. In a matchup with former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards and several other lesser-known candidates, Alsobrooks dominated with more than 60% of the vote.

“She truly is one of the bright, bright stars in our country,” Harris, then a U.S. Senator in California, said about Alsobrooks when she endorsed her in 2018. A selfie photo of the two of them is mounted at campaign headquarters. Harris has not weighed in on Maryland’s Senate race, but Alsobrooks said the two maintain a relationship.

Both women, of course, have been challenged over their records as state’s attorneys, with some progressives going so far as to label Harris a “cop.”

In a 2011 high-profile murder case involving the killing of two children, Alsobrooks sought the death penalty for the accused, which she withdrew upon it being outlawed in Maryland in 2013. She has since said she would support a federal death penalty repeal.

Trone has made a point of emphasizing he has never supported capital punishment.

As county executive, Alsobrooks has at times sparred with the more progressive members of the County Council and raised eyebrows when she replaced well-reputed, appointed Board of Education members with her own picks during the start of her tenure. She’s since asked one of her appointees, former board chair Juanita Miller, to resign following allegations of misconduct in office. Miller refused and remains on the board.

Alsobrooks served one full year as county executive before the coronavirus swept into Maryland. In densely populated Prince George’s County, cases and death counts rose quickly, and the county executive used her platform to advocate for more federal aid for small businesses and, later, more equitably distributed vaccine doses. She joined a coalition of county executives and mayors that would routinely challenge Hogan, then governor, over his response to the public health crisis.

Defending her record with diversity and inclusion, Alsobrooks points to a new public-private partnership launched under her tenure to build two dozen new, modernized public school buildings and a newly constructed labor and delivery center at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham, the first and only maternal health ward in Prince George’s County. She also helped usher in the county’s first cancer ward and helped land the bid for the incoming FBI headquarters.

With Maryland voters chiefly concerned about crime and the economy ahead of all other issues, Alsobrooks said she’s delivered on both.

“The reason I’m going to be more successful is because I know what I’m doing,” she said at an Upper Marlboro campaign stop. “I don’t get to just stand on the floor and talk about it, fight about it. He might be able to talk about crime; he’s never been responsible for lowering crime.”

U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks, center, speaks at an "All in for Alsobrooks" rally at Woodberry Park in Baltimore on Saturday, April 27, 2024. She was joined by current and former elected officials from the Baltimore area, including Gov. Wes Moore, at left.
U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks, center, speaks at an "All in for Alsobrooks" rally at Woodberry Park in Baltimore on Saturday, April 27, 2024. She was joined by current and former elected officials from the Baltimore area, including Gov. Wes Moore, at left. (Pamela Wood)

The support

Alsobrooks’ supporters have rallied behind her and her historic candidacy.

“I’ve seen David Trone’s ads, and I don’t see how he compares to Angela in any way,” said Thomas Taylor, an Upper Marlboro resident who came with his wife, Hettie, to hear from Alsobrooks on a warm April evening. “She’s gotten some crucial things done.”

Her base also has emphasized the value of her perspective in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s important for senators to reflect us as people,” said Laurie Wooden, an Ellicott City resident who attended a campaign event in Columbia in mid-April.

Ivey, Alsobrooks’ political ally, said she has stacked up achievements in two very challenging public offices.

“She may not have gone to everybody’s fish fry, or everybody’s church service and all of that, but she wasn’t known for the social aspect of the job,” Ivey said. “She was known for putting her shoulder to the wheel, and she did the same as county executive.”

U.S. Rep. David Trone is seen as Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks speaks during a March U.S. Senate candidate forum in Silver Spring. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Trone, though, has sought to minimize her purported strengths.

He has said that Alsobrooks may not be as electable as he is, arguing he had not only the resources to win, but “the persona” that could pick up votes in Western and Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

Alsobrooks, to clinch the nomination, may have to overcome a political science phenomenon called “strategic discrimination” in the voting booths, said Janelle Wong, Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Voters may prefer Alsobrooks, Wong said. But in a tight race, they might weigh how others will evaluate her.

“They are likely to be thinking about long-term strategy, and when you think about that, and who can beat Larry Hogan, most Americans consider white men to be more electable than equally qualified Black men and women,” Wong said.

Alsobrooks and her supporters have seized on opportunities to paint her as the safer choice come November. They note, for example, Trone’s history of donating at least $500,000 to the campaigns of anti-abortion Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, which he has said were meant to buy him “access” so he could maintain business operations in those states.

At a campaign stop for Alsobrooks in mid-April, state Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, who represents Howard County, blasted Trone for his accidental use of a racial slur during a congressional hearing last month, which she characterized as a red flag. Trone has apologized for the use of the word.

“If David Trone gets elected, my rights are going to be rolled back, because anybody that can let a racial slur out of their mouth that quickly, thinks about it and has said it [before],” Atterbeary told the room. “And it’s not enough to have someone who’s just a fighter. I need somebody who can empathize with me.”

Under different circumstances, Alsobrooks said, she likely would have already put much of the campaign to rest; She considers herself more qualified, with decades of public service and more than one broken glass ceiling to show for it.

But she’s been forced to work “three times as hard” against Trone, whose incessant spending, she said, may just drown her out.

“You don’t wake up and just run for Senate. This is something that you work to prepare for, for a very long time to be qualified,” Alsobrooks said. “This has not been a fair fight. But we’re still going to succeed and win anyway.”

Data editor Ryan Little contributed to this article.

Hallie Miller covers housing for The Baltimore Banner. She's previously covered city and regional services, business and health at both The Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

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