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Ivey defeats Edwards in bitter, high-profile Md. primary for House

Israel policy played major role in 4th District race, with AIPAC spending nearly $6 million to boost him

Democratic congressional candidate Glenn Ivey waits to greet a voter at Surrattsville High School during the primary in Maryland on July 19, 2022. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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Glenn Ivey, the former top prosecutor in Prince George’s County, has defeated ex-congresswoman Donna F. Edwards in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, according to a projection from the Associated Press, positioning him to join the U.S. House after an acrimonious campaign.

The race in the deep-blue district anchored by Prince George’s was Tuesday’s highest-profile Maryland congressional primary. Elsewhere, Republicans notably selected Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) to take on Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) in a 6th District rematch that is likely to be the most competitive U.S. House race in the state.

2022 Maryland primary elections results

Ivey was helped to victory with millions of dollars of outside spending, a showcase of the largely unlimited influence that national special-interest groups can wield in political campaigns. A super PAC affiliated with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which endorsed Ivey, spent nearly $6 million helping him in the race — an enormous sum in a primary House race — and flooded the airwaves with attack ads targeting Edwards. Roughly half of Ivey’s more than $1 million of fundraising contributions also came from AIPAC donors.

The huge resources from the powerful pro-Israel lobbying arm gave Ivey the resources to be competitive with the much better-known Edwards, who had backing from major Democratic figures including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and powerhouse advocacy groups such as EMILY’s List.

Donna Edwards wants her Md. seat back. Glenn Ivey stands in the way.

Ivey has been eyeing a seat in Congress since at least 2003 and previously ran twice for the 4th District seat — dropping out against Edwards in 2012 and losing the 2016 primary to Rep. Anthony G. Brown, who decided to run for attorney general this year.

In an interview late Tuesday night just before the race was called, Ivey credited his grass-roots campaign volunteers, some of whom had been with him for two decades since his first run for state’s attorney. But he also acknowledged the central role that AIPAC and its affiliated super-PAC, United Democracy Project, played in the campaign.

Ivey said he was comfortable with AIPAC’s involvement in the race, both because he supports AIPAC’s values and positions on Israel and because he believed the content of the ads from the United Democracy Project were fair. The ads alleged Edwards had poor constituent services while in office, attacks that hurt her previous campaign for Senate as well. Edwards pledged to do better if elected but decried the perception of her the ads created.

“Regardless of these national players coming in on both sides and spending millions of dollars to weigh in on the race,” Ivey told The Washington Post, “the bottom line is the content that was generated by the AIPAC ads was true and relevant and the kind of factual information voters should know.”

Some voters at the polls Tuesday said they were turned off by the negative ad campaign. Ellen Hughes, of Laurel, said she was open to learning about both Edwards and Ivey but said her “breaking point” was Ivey’s reluctance to condemn the negative ads against his opponent. “He could have said, ‘Stop this,’ but he didn’t,” Hughes said.

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Ivey and Edwards agreed on many liberal issues, such as gun violence prevention and abortion rights. That left Israel policy as a key wedge in the race. AIPAC’s opposition to Edwards dates to 2009, in her first term, when she voted “present” on a resolution to support Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. But Edwards retained strong support from the more liberal Israel policy group J Street, which spent more than $700,000 to support her. One of its attack ads against Ivey connected him to AIPAC, pointing out that the group also supports former vice president Mike Pence and Republicans who objected to election results — which Ivey condemned.

Ivey largely ran on his record as Prince George’s County state’s attorney, having served from 2002 to 2011. At the start of his tenure, he inherited a justice system rife with police misconduct that had drawn federal oversight, and he ran his initial state’s attorney campaign promising to prioritize police accountability — an issue that featured in his congressional campaign this year.

But he also balanced that goal against residents’ concerns about public safety, which many voters called a top issue for them this year in interviews with The Post. Ivey often touted in campaign ads that crime fell significantly during his decade-long tenure as the top prosecutor, and he pointed to community programs and a domestic-violence unit he created.

On Wednesday morning, AIPAC issued a statement congratulating Ivey, saying it will continue to be involved in races this election cycle “to help build broad bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

“Pro-Israel activists mobilized in this race because there was a clear and unambiguous choice between a candidate who will strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance and one who would weaken it,” AIPAC’s statement said, calling Ivey a “strong pro-Israel progressive.”

Maryland’s six incumbent House Democrats who were seeking reelection did not face competitive primary challengers Tuesday and advanced to the general election, as did Sen. Chris Van Hollen, according to AP projections. Van Hollen’s general election contest is not expected to be competitive; he will face perennial political candidate Chris Chaffee, who won the Republican nomination for Senate on Tuesday, the AP projected.

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Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, was unopposed in his 1st District primary. The AP projected Tuesday that former delegate Heather Mizeur won the Democratic primary Tuesday, queuing up a long-shot bid to unseat him. Mizeur, who previously represented Takoma Park but now lives on a small farm on the Eastern Shore, defeated former U.S. Foreign Service officer Dave Harden.

Mizeur had raised nearly $2 million — more than Harris — during the campaign. But while Democrats were eager for a chance to unseat Harris, a staunch Trump ally, their hopes faded after a redistricting legal battle yielded a final congressional map that left the Eastern Shore solidly red.

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In Maryland’s 6th district, Parrott defeated several competitors — including 25-year-old Matthew Foldi, who had endorsements from Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and some national figures — to advance to the general election. Trone, the massively wealthy co-founder of Total Wine & More, is the state’s only vulnerable Democrat heading into the midterm elections, where the party’s slim House majority is on the line.

Parrott lost to Trone in 2020 by roughly 20 points. But the 6th became much more competitive after redistricting this year, creating an opening for Republicans to flip the seat red under the right conditions. Parrott, however, will have to contend with Trone’s huge campaign war chest. The two-term Democrat has already poured $12 million of his personal money into his campaign, evidence that he isn’t taking any chances this year, despite past criticism that he was “buying” the seat.

Parrott has served six terms in the Maryland House of Delegates, developing a reputation as a combative socially conservative lawmaker and advocate of direct democracy in the state who has taken his crusades to the courts and to the ballot box. Soon after taking office in 2011, Parrott’s public profile rose with the creation of MDPetitions.com, as he led petition drives to repeal laws such as same-sex marriage or in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, forcing voter referendums on the issues that ultimately failed.

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In the courts, Parrott sued Hogan over his pandemic mandates in May 2020 prohibiting large gatherings. More recently, Parrott sued the state over a congressional map that advantaged Maryland Democrats. That lawsuit turned out to be a major victory for Parrott and Republicans, after a judge agreed that Democrats engaged in illegal partisan gerrymandering and ordered that the map be redrawn, resulting in the 6th District’s new, more competitive format.

President Biden still won the district as it’s currently drawn by 10 points in 2020, but rising costs of living and a poor approval rating for Biden have Republicans chattering about a red wave this year.

Parrott’s stiffest competitor, Foldi, faced an apparent name-recognition hurdle despite his endorsements.

Pam Beall, a voter who said she came to the polls at Urbana High School in Ijamsville to support conservative candidates opposing abortion and big government, said she voted for Parrott in part because his was the only name she knew.

“I’ve heard about him,” she said, “so that’s who I’m voting for.” Asked whether she knew anything about Foldi, she shrugged and shook her head.

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Daniel Larason, a 27-year-old viticulturist, said he had also cast his ballot for Parrott at the high school. Most of the candidates in that primary seemed ideologically similar, but Larason had seen more ads from Parrott than any of his rivals. And in his mind, he said, winning in November was the top priority.

One couple split between Parrott and Foldi, seeing different strengths or weaknesses in each.

Barbara Pfister, 60, went for Foldi, taking a cue from Hogan’s endorsement. “I thought he would bring positive change,” she said.

Her husband, though, thought Foldi was too young. “Not that youth is a detriment,” Bruce Pfister, 63, was quick to add, but “I like experience.” Parrott won him over, he said, with a “very personal” mailer sent to the Pfisters and signed by Parrott’s wife.

Vanessa G. Sánchez, Daniel Wu and Teo Armus contributed to this report.

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