With Maryland’s U.S. Senate matchup set between Democrat Angela Alsobrooks and Republican Larry Hogan, both parties are ramping up for an intense campaign season that will draw an unusual amount of national attention and money.

Hogan, before he won an easy victory in the Republican primary, was already looking ahead to the general election that he called “the real campaign.”

The stakes are high: Maryland is among a handful of states with competitive races that could determine the balance of power in the Senate, which currently has a slim Democratic majority.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore foreshadowed the intense campaign at the Alsobrooks victory party on Tuesday night: “Tonight, we won the battle. Tomorrow, we wage the war, and we are not losing. There is too much at stake, there is too much on the line.”

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“You’ll see a robust campaign over the next six months,” said Ken Ulman, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.

“I do expect this to be a very competitive race,” said Nicole Beus Harris, chair of the Maryland Republican Party. “There is going to be a lot of money spent. There is going to be a lot of messaging on both sides, and a lot of counter-messaging.”

Maryland voters can expect national money to flood into the state as the two parties duke it out. Here are some of the key issues that voters will be seeing and hearing over the next six months.

Abortion, abortion, abortion

The topic of abortion and reproductive choice will be unavoidable this election season.

For Maryland Democrats, abortion may be their strongest issue and one where they believe Hogan has a weakness. Alsobrooks will remind voters that as a woman she personally understands the importance of women’s health issues, something she already raised in the Democratic primary.

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Democrats will try to capitalize on the specter of Republicans gaining control of the Senate and voting on a national abortion ban. Ulman said Hogan — who has long said he personally opposes abortion — can’t be trusted to vote to keep abortion legal nationwide.

Alsobrooks sounded that theme at her election night party.

“He will not support a national law to protect abortion rights. He will not oppose anti-choice judges, including nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, even in the wake of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade,” Alsobrooks said. “And given these positions, it isn’t all that surprising that Larry Hogan called abortion rights issues an emotional issue for women.”

Hogan’s team is anticipating this line of attack, but one of his senior advisers said Democrats “are going to be shouting into the closet over it.”

Hogan’s team believes he’s been clear on abortion since he first ran for governor in 2014. Back then, Hogan said while he’s personally opposed, the matter is settled law in Maryland.

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Hogan wasn’t tested on abortion for much of his two terms as governor. But near the end of his tenure, state lawmakers approved expanding which medical practitioners can provide abortion care and requiring insurance companies to cover most abortions. Hogan vetoed both, and lawmakers overturned his vetoes.

Hogan also held back money that lawmakers set aside to train providers in abortion care; current Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, released the money on his first full day in office.

When asked about potentially voting for a national abortion ban or protecting abortion access nationally, Hogan has often demurred and called such questions “hypothetical.” Voters can expect the Democratic nominee to hammer Hogan on the issue.

“Repeatedly, Larry Hogan has said he will not commit to protecting reproductive freedom,” Ulman said.

Hogan sought to address the issue in his victory speech Tuesday night, saying: “Let me once again set the record straight tonight. To the women of Maryland: You have my word that I will continue to protect your right to make your own reproductive health decisions.”

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Immigration, crime and safety

Hogan’s team believes that he has a strong message on immigration and public safety that will resonate with voters more than abortion will.

“He stood up against the ‘defund the police’ crowd and he’ll do that again. He’ll be talking safety and security, the increase in crime and holding violent criminals accountable,” said Beus Harris.

Hogan is likely to remind voters that he promoted legislation — which was ultimately unsuccessful — to increase sentences for certain violent crimes.

Crime and public safety is consistently a top issue of concern for Marylanders. A springtime poll of Marylanders from Goucher College and The Baltimore Banner found 78% of those polled said crime and safety was a “major” factor in who they would vote for — the top issue cited in the poll.

Hogan recently took a trip to the U.S. southern border with Mexico, donning protective gear and quickly turning photos and videos from the visit in campaign ads.

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Fixing the “broken immigration system” will be one of Hogan’s messaging points, one of his senior advisors noted.

Hogan’s record as governor

Hogan is clearly trading on his popularity as he runs for the U.S. Senate, with a campaign theme of “let’s get back to work.” He sometimes wears apparel embroidered with “governor” just as he did while in office.

Hogan says he has a good track record to run on.

“Hopefully they’ll, after eight years of them approving of the job I did as governor, I think maybe they’ll give me another shot,” he said.

Among what he says are his successes in office: ushering the state through the coronavirus pandemic, stepping in with the National Guard during the 2015 uprising in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, cutting tolls and taxes, and leaving the state budget with a surplus.

Democrats, however, will mine Hogan’s records for problems, from faulty coronavirus tests to short-staffing state agencies and undercutting the pay of correctional officers.

Democrats will also work to convince voters that the next U.S. senator will face a host of different issues that Hogan hasn’t been fully tested on, like abortion and immigration and confirming Supreme Court justices. And unlike when he was governor, Hogan might not have the last word on decisions — Republican Senate colleagues would expect his support.

“The job of governor is different from the job of U.S. senator,” Ulman said.

The Trump factor

For years, it’s been clear that there’s no love lost between Hogan and former President Donald Trump, who is the apparent Republican nominee for president again this year.

While his firm anti-Trump stance has won Hogan some points with Democrats, it also has alienated him from some Republicans.

Democrats will work to convince voters that a vote for Hogan could put the Senate in Republican hands, and GOP leaders would then work to push the agenda of Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly recruited Hogan to run.

“We have a two-term Republican governor running for the U.S. Senate at a moment in our nation’s history where, truly, control of the U.S. Senate between Democrats and Republicans could come down to one vote,” said Ulman.

He added: “The fact is: Larry Hogan is on the wrong team.”

Hogan says that he will be an independent voice if he’s sent to the U.S. Senate; some of his ads tout him as a “bipartisan” politician. The former governor said Tuesday that he thinks voters are “fed up” with partisan attacks.

“Voters want people who are going to be independent, who are going to be bipartisan, who will look out for Maryland and Maryland voters first,” a Hogan senior advisor said.

Hogan won his two races for governor by piecing together support from across the political spectrum: Republicans, Democrats and independents.

He’ll need to win over both anti-Trump Democrats and pro-Trump Republicans. Beus Harris of the Republican Party said Hogan can thread that needle.

It’s a fallacy to think that Republicans have to pick one or the other, Trump or Hogan, she said. Many Republicans will cast their vote for president for Trump and their vote for Senate for Hogan, she predicted.

This weekend, the Maryland Republican Party will meet for a convention where “Unity for Victory” will be the theme.

“We’re going to do our very best to bring together both sides,” Beus Harris said. “There is a portion of Maryland Republicans who are die-hard Trump and never Hogan; and people who are die-hard Hogan and never Trump. There’s a good portion of Republicans who fill out the middle.”

National money and interest

The Democratic nominee will have an advantage in the race, according to the various national election prognosticators who rate races. But the race is competitive enough, with control of the Senate on the line, that it has drawn national interest.

Maryland is among a handful of states that could determine control of the Senate — a rare situation for Maryland, which hasn’t had a Senate race this competitive in years.

As such, national interest and attention is already focused on the state and will continue through November.

For Republicans, it’s a moment to celebrate.

“For Maryland to be playing that pivotal role, being the 51st seat, is just amazing,” Beus Harris said. “It’s an incredible time to be a Republican in Maryland.”

Funding from both national parties already is flowing into the state. There’s already a pro-Hogan super PAC with $10 million in initial funding from Republican megadonor Kenneth C. Griffin.

The National Republican Senate Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already have been involved in the race, before the primary season was even over. That’s likely to continue.

“Certainly, we’re having robust conversations with the national party,” Ulman said of the Democrats.

Baltimore Banner reporters Penelope Blackwell and Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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