A look at local issues in the Maryland U.S. Senate race


Photo: TK

By Tori Newby and Catherine Hollingsworth

In the race to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate, where do the candidates, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, stand on local issues? 

What has been their record and what action would local leaders like to see them take at the ground level? Here’s a look at key campaign issues on education, the local economy, reproductive freedom and crime reduction.

Since stepping into the role of county executive in 2018, Alsobrooks has delivered on several new or upgraded “Blueprint” schools and secured a historic amount of funding for county schools, she wrote in her first-term report. The next phase of the county’s Blueprint plan calls for the construction of a new elementary school just outside of Bowie, in the Fairwood area, in 2025.

Due to cost concerns, Hogan vetoed the Blueprint for Maryland's Future, an education reform law that many school districts are struggling to implement. Lawmakers voted to override his veto and the reforms became law, expanding full-day pre-kindergarten, raising teachers’ starting pay to $60,000, requiring new standards for college and career readiness and other changes that could add up to increased costs for school systems, Capital News Service reported.

"What we stand for is smaller government, less spending. We're Republicans," Jesse Peed, chair of the Republican Central Committee for Prince George's County, said. The Blueprint plan will mean "all of our taxes are gonna go up," he said.

The spending plan approved by state lawmakers in the 2024 legislative session contains no sales or income tax hikes but does increase taxes and fees on items like tobacco products and vehicle registration to fund Blueprint reforms and other projects, according to Capital News Service.

Zipporah Miller, District 5 school board member, said she believes Alsobrooks will fight to address the teacher shortage crisis and secure more federal funding to increase their salaries and improve their work conditions. District 5, which includes Bowie and Upper Marlboro, is “not where we need to be,” Miller said.

Miller is hopeful that, if elected, Alsobrooks would push to fund high-poverty Title I schools as well as Pell Grants to support low-income students’ college tuition. Of the 206 schools in PGCPS, 90 had Title I status as of March 2024, based on state data.

At-Large Bowie City Councilmember Wanda Rogers hopes that Alsobrooks can advocate for Bowie’s interests at the national level.

Rogers would like to see more big businesses in Bowie, where she said there have been difficulties attracting and retaining such companies. She hopes that Alsobrooks can work to bring more company headquarters into the state, which she said would alleviate tax burdens for residents.

“Maryland is a wonderful place to be, a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to retire, and I'm hoping that she'll be able to get some funding in from the federal coffers to help us create that vision of the best Maryland that we can possibly be,” said Rogers, who started an executive consulting business and owns a real estate brokerage in Bowie.

Alsobrooks plans to deliver her State of the Economy address at a breakfast June 13 with business owners and entrepreneurs. During Alsobrooks’ tenure, the county has seen a surge in startup businesses, more than in any county in the state, Capital News Service reported.

Prince George’s County and Maryland have maintained their AAA bond ratings from the three financial reporting agencies. However, Moody’s downgraded the financial outlook to negative for both the county and the state.

The downgrade for Maryland was “due to a depletion of the state’s general fund surplus,” Bond Buyer reported. Moody’s cited concerns about “looming structural deficits driven by programs including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reforms,” Maryland Matters reported.

Hogan, who left office with $5.5 million in reserves, said he was saddened by the news of the downgrade. “I hope this downgrade is a wake-up call to abandon all the talk in Annapolis of record tax increases and more reckless spending.”

Maryland is doing well financially largely because of federal aid, Democratic state Sen. Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County, told Maryland Matters in 2022 when Hogan was preparing to leave office.

In response to the county’s AAA rating from Fitch, Alsobrooks said it is “the latest sign that we have fought to maintain the fiscal health of the County.”

When Marylanders cast their ballots in November, they will vote on the question of whether reproductive freedom should be a constitutional right.

Alsobrooks supports etching this right into the state constitution and has said she would oppose any judicial nominee who does not support abortion rights.

As for Hogan, he has said that he would work to reinstate Roe v. Wade and points out that he was the first governor in America to provide over-the-counter birth control paid for by Medicaid.  But he explained that he “rightly vetoed” legislation that he said would have allowed non-licensed medical professionals to perform abortions.

Maryland Right to Life opposes amending the state constitution to include reproductive rights, saying the abortion industry in Maryland has become a lucrative "big business" subsidized by taxpayers.

Reproductive Freedom for All contends that Hogan is trying to "gloss over" his anti-abortion record in his abortion ad and that he"dismissed the need to protect abortion in Maryland's state constitution."

Crime ranked as a top issue for voters in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties where crime has spiked, a March poll by The Washington Post and University of Maryland found. So what has Alsobrooks and her team done about it?

When Alsobrooks was part of a group of county leaders focused on crime reduction, violent crime dropped by over 50% between 2011-2018, based on FBI crime data. But violent crime began to tick up under her tenure as county executive, from 14 incidents in 2018 to 2,407 in 2022, FBI crime data showed.

Organized carjacking rings are part of the problem, Hogan wrote in an opinion for The Baltimore Sun. If elected, he has vowed to give federal prosecutors the resources they need to break up these rings and dismantle drug cartels smuggling fentanyl, part of his 10-point plan to fight crime.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy has pushed for legislation to prosecute racketeering cases locally. She also launched a carjacking task force in 2021 to better coordinate across jurisdictions in carjacking cases.

Alsobrooks implemented a juvenile curfew in 2022 to address youth carjackings and a National Harbor juvenile curfew this year. Braveboy has said that new laws restrict how juvenile cases are handled.

“The simple truth is the juvenile justice system in Maryland is not working optimally to provide the best outcomes for children,” state Sen. Ron Watson, wrote in an end-of-session email to constituents. 

State lawmakers took steps during the 2024 legislative session to improve juvenile justice reforms through a bill that would allow younger children, under 13, to be covered under the Department of Juvenile Services for certain firearms-related offenses and third-degree sexual offenses, said the email from Watson, a Democrat who represents Bowie and Upper Marlboro in District 23.

Amid a police shortage, the Prince George’s County Council recently approved a fiscal 2025 budget that includes $200,000 to fill police vacancies and forensics lab renovations that could aid in fighting violent crime.

The New Deal, a national network of progressive local leaders, hailed Alsobrooks in a recent video for her second chance initiatives to reduce repeat offenders, including financial incentives for local businesses that hire formerly incarcerated people and substance abuse treatment and mental health care for these individuals.

Tori Newby is a Maryland native who previously covered community news for The Daily Tar Heel in North Carolina and wrote about tech startups in the Triangle area for GrepBeat.

Bowie Sun Editor Catherine Hollingsworth contributed to this report.

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