Former President Donald Trump is backing Larry Hogan for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat — a potentially polarizing move in the competitive race.

Trump’s support was first reported by Fox News on Thursday afternoon, and came after the former president met with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Fox reporter Aishah Hasnie asked the former president if he would support Hogan’s run. Trump responded: “I’m about the party and I’m about the country. And I would like to see him win.”

Hogan, the former two-term Republican governor of Maryland, faces a challenging task keeping a divided Republican Party in his corner while still appealing to enough Democrats to win a statewide race. Hogan has a long record of criticizing Trump and did not vote for him in the past two presidential elections.

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Hogan drew further criticism from the Make America Great Again wing of the party when he issued a statement urging people to respect the judicial system ahead of the guilty verdicts in Trump’s hush money trial in New York. Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who is co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said that Hogan “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone.”

Hogan’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. The Trump campaign could not immediately be reached.

Democrats quickly pounced on the endorsement, underscoring that Hogan is now aligned with the former president, who is deeply unpopular in Maryland. In a recent poll, 61% of Marylanders said they disapprove of Trump, with 38% offering approval in a survey from Gonzales Research & Media Services.

In that poll, 53% said they would vote for President Joe Biden for president this year, with just 32% saying they would vote for Trump.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a brief but blunt statement: “Donald Trump wants Republican Larry Hogan in the Senate.”

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The Maryland Democratic Party offered: “Donald Trump endorsed Larry Hogan because he wants a Senate majority that’s beholden to Trump. Maryland voters know what is at stake in this election and will vote to stop a Republican takeover of Washington.”

The state Democrats also blasted off an email fundraising appeal. “With this endorsement, we know Trump is going to flood resources into the state to support his chosen candidate,” the email said. “Help us build the largest field operation Maryland has ever seen to defeat Donald Trump.”

The Maryland Republican Party’s executive director, Adam Wood, declined to comment on Trump’s comments about Hogan.

“We continue to support all of our nominees, from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket,” he said.

Former Gov. Larry Hogan faces Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who would be Maryland’s first Black senator. Hogan is bidding to flip a reliably blue U.S. Senate seat red. The matchup is one of a few nationally expected to determine the balance of power in the chamber. (The Baltimore Banner)

One of Maryland’s U.S. Senate seats is open this election, following longtime U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s decision not to run for reelection.

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Hogan is facing Democratic nominee Angela Alsobrooks, currently the Prince George’s County executive.

Alsobrooks said in a statement that Senate Republicans “shot down access to contraception” and “voted against protecting IVF.”

“And just now,” Alsobrooks wrote on social media, “Donald Trump endorsed Larry Hogan so he can have a Republican majority.”

Both Democrats and Republicans are paying close attention to Maryland’s Senate race this year, as it’s one of a handful of states that could determine control of the chamber.

Maryland’s electorate is roughly 53% Democrats, 24% Republicans and the rest unaffiliated or belonging to other parties. Though that gives a Democrat like Alsobrooks a potential advantage, Hogan has twice successfully built a coalition across parties to win statewide.

This is a developing story.