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US Senate Race: How Hogan and Alsobrooks Seek LGBTQ+ Support

Wearing a rainbow sticker on his campaign ball cap and another on his black polo shirt, Larry Hogan zigzagged from one side of the street to the other, shaking hands and posing for selfies during the Annapolis Pride Parade on Saturday afternoon.

The former governor, now a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, marched in his first-ever Pride Month event. “Are you okay? Happy pride!” he said to helpful parade watchers. Others quietly avoided Hogan and a few openly booed him.

“Get Republicans out of Pride!” one person shouted.

Hogan’s political rival, Democratic candidate Angela Alsobrooks, did not make it to the parade. But a crowd of Democratic officials and activists wore her bright green T-shirts and waved her signs as they walked along the parade route. Some spectators chanted “Angela! Angela!” or “All in for Alsobrooks” as Hogan’s crew walked by.

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Alsobrooks, who marched in Annapolis Pride last year, plans to attend several other Pride events around the state this month.

In recent years, Pride parades and festivals have become must-see events for politicians — especially Democrats — looking to show their support for the community.

While the LGBTQ population is small — with varying estimates, but generally less than 10% — LGBTQ voters are smart, engaged and can make a difference in a close race, said Andrew Flores, an assistant professor at the School of American University Public Affairs.

“Ultimately, they are a very important constituency on the margins. Very close races can be won or lost based on LGBTQ voters,” said Flores, who studies politics and policies that impact LGBTQ populations.

Maryland has its first competitive U.S. Senate race in a while, and both candidates are reaching out to as many different types of voters as possible. And during Pride Month, that means queer voters.

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The candidates will have to convince LGBTQ Marylanders that they have both a track record and a vision to support the community, Flores said. It’s not just parades that matter, policy is even more important.

“LGBTQ voters tend to be very observant voters. They look not just at words and symbols, but also at actions – what behaviors people exhibit that actually improve the quality of life for LGBTQ people,” Flores said.

LGBTQ+ voters and their allies are concerned about preserving their rights, especially with a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and the prospect of Republican control of Congress and the White House. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion care, Justice Clarence Thomas signaled his intention to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, which allowed same-sex marriages nationwide.

Hogan’s record

Hogan faces challenges in recruiting LGBTQ+ voters. Typically, 75%-85% of LGBTQ+ voters are Democrats, Flores said, putting the former governor at a disadvantage. Hogan has cast himself as an independent voice, but he belongs to the same party that has targeted diverse curricula, transgender youth and even drag performers in other parts of the country.

“He’s trying to distinguish himself from the party, but at the end of the day there’s still an ‘R’ next to his name,” Flores said.

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During his eight years as governor, Hogan remained largely on the sidelines when it came to gay rights.

Hogan didn’t march in Pride parades or light up the governor’s mansion in rainbow colors.

He did not sponsor any legislation aimed at expanding the rights of LGBTQ+ Marylanders, helping them with healthcare or combating discrimination.

When these types of bills passed the Democratic-dominated Legislature and landed on the governor’s desk, Hogan typically let them become law without his signature.

The LGBTQ+-friendly bills became law without Hogan’s signature or support and included measures that made it easier for transgender Marylanders to change their birth certificates, driver’s licenses and marriage certificates; creating a state commission on LGBTQ+ issues; and expanding the definition of a hate crime to include gender identity.

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Hogan dismissed questions about why he didn’t put the bills in writing, saying there is no legal difference between a bill he signs and one that goes into effect without his signature. “It has the same effect,” Hogan said.

Asked if he’s concerned that his record could be a signal that he doesn’t fully support the community, Hogan said: “We’re just going to come out here and try to talk to the people and the community and meet them. Hopefully they keep an eye on us. We are not going to be with someone 100% of the time on every topic.”

Advocates question whether Hogan can take credit for lawmakers’ work.

“For eight years, Larry Hogan basically acted as if LGBTQ people didn’t exist,” Del says. Kris Fair, chair of the General Assembly LGBTQ+ Caucus.

Fair was elected in 2022, just as Hogan left office, but has spent years making waves as an activist, legislative staffer and director of a community center in Frederick.

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The progress the LGBTQ community has made has happened “despite his administration,” said Fair, a Democrat. One law that particularly frustrates Fair is one passed in 2021 that eliminates the so-called “panic defense” that a criminal defendant might use in court to limit culpability based on learning a victim’s sexual or gender identity . It took effect without Hogan’s signature.

“It’s really shocking to people like me that he couldn’t even take a fundamental position on very simple legislation. That would have spoken volumes from his office,” Fair said.

Hogan has been endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that says it is “the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to the representation of LGBT conservatives and allies.” Neither the national office nor the local chapter responded to interview requests.

Hogan, in a brief interview, did not indicate specific policies or legislation he would support for the LGBTQ+ community if elected to the Senate. “We will have plenty of time to talk about many of these issues… We are going to listen to everyone and try to make reasonable decisions that are fair and equitable,” he said.

Alsobrooks’ record

Alsobrooks, meanwhile, has publicly stood up for LGBTQ+ rights and has stepped up her actions over the past year. In her official capacity as county executive for Prince George’s County, she launched a series of social media videos for Pride Month on Saturday.

“I am so proud to support the LGBTQ+ community and will be a tireless champion for them in the United States Senate,” she said in a statement. “Point.”

After previously issuing Pride Month proclamations, Alsobrooks appointed the first LGBTQ liaison to Prince George’s County government in June 2023. That month also marked the first time she had the rainbow Pride flag raised over the district administration building.

That month, Alsobrooks also wrapped a rainbow feather boa around her neck and walked in the Annapolis Pride parade; she also wore rainbow sunglasses for a provincial police Pride walk in National Harbor. Later in the fall, Alsobrooks attended a provincial government LGBTQIA+ “meet and greet.”

Alsobrooks, who is serving her second term as county executive, announced her candidacy for Senate in May 2023.

Her campaign website makes a broad promise to “stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.” The website promises that Alsobrooks will “strongly oppose” anti-trans legislation proposed by Republicans.

“We must speak out against anti-trans hatred and violence, from bullying in our schools to violent hate-based crimes and discriminatory legislation,” the website said.

Alsobrooks’ actions were not without criticism, however.

Krystal Oriadha, the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve on the Prince George’s County Council, has passed a resolution to fly the Pride flag at the county government building. But she said the Alsobrooks administration was not in favor of having a public ceremony for it, which was frustrating.

“They did it in the middle of the night, instead of the ceremony prescribed in the resolution,” said Oriadha, a Democrat. “I was disappointed that it was done this way, but I think the fact that it was done was still a step forward.”

Despite her frustrations, Oriada praised Alsobrooks’ administration for expanding health care for people living with HIV and AIDS, a major concern of the LGBTQ+ community. Oriadha did not endorse Alsobrooks in the Democratic primary, but said there is “no discussion” that she will support Alsobrooks in the fall.

Democrats may disagree on the details of how to best support LGBTQ+ Marylanders, but Republicans hardly recognize the community’s needs, Oriadha said.

“The Democratic Party is way ahead of the Republican Party in that regard… They don’t even believe in my existence,” she said.

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