Kamala Harris stumps for Angela Alsobrooks in Maryland

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LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris said Friday that more must be done at the federal level to prevent gun violence during a campaign stop in Maryland to support Angela Alsobrooks, a Democrat whose U.S. Senate race could determine control of the chamber.

Harris, speaking on the 10th annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day, marked the occasion by underscoring the need to pass more laws to stop gun violence. The vice president also highlighted the experience of her longtime friend who served as state’s attorney as well as the chief executive in Prince George’s County in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.

“Maryland, this November you have the power to elect leaders who have actually kept our communities safe,” Harris said.

Alsobrooks defeated U.S. Rep. David Trone last month, after the congressman spent about $62 million of his personal fortune to self-finance his campaign. Now, she’s running in a competitive race against popular Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan for a Senate seat that is opening with the retirement of Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat.

A Republican has not won a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland in more than 40 years in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 statewide. But Hogan is running the most competitive Senate race for the GOP in the state in decades.

Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Maryland Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate

Alsobrooks would become Maryland’s first Black U.S. senator, and the nation’s third Black woman to be elected to the Senate. Harris was the second Black woman elected to the chamber.

Alsobrooks said she would support legislation for universal background checks, a ban on military-style assault weapons and to combat illegal firearms trafficking.

The county executive, who noted that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., also said she would not back down from holding gun manufacturers accountable “for the immense harm that they have caused our state and our country.”

“And let me be crystal clear, we will not accomplish these goals to keep Americans safe without the Senate majority, and I want you to know that it has become the case that the path to the majority runs through Maryland,” Alsobrooks said.

Harris and Alsobrooks spoke at a rally that included some of Maryland’s leading Democrats, including Gov. Wes Moore and Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

Van Hollen pointed out Hogan’s former endorsement by the National Rifle Association during his 2014 campaign for governor. The senator also noted that Hogan received an A-minus rating from the NRA.

Hogan, who won enough crossover Democrats to win two terms as governor in heavily blue Maryland, has been one of former President Donald Trump’s sharpest Republican critics. But Van Hollen said Hogan’s former NRA rating suggests his politics are closer to Trump than he likes to admit.

“So I know he goes around saying that there are lots of differences between him and Donald Trump, but when it comes to this issue, the only difference is Donald Trump got an A. Larry Hogan got an A-minus from the NRA,” Van Hollen said.

Hogan later distanced himself from the NRA in his second campaign for governor in 2018, and the organization did not endorse him that year after he signed several gun-control measures.

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In an AP interview in mid April, Hogan said that he would support an assault weapons ban at the national level after not opposing a state ban while governor of Maryland.

“I’m in favor of an assault weapons ban,” Hogan told The Associated Press. “I’ve been in favor of trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill. And I’m for a universal background check. We had an assault weapons ban in Maryland, which we kept in place.”

In a statement Friday, Hogan’s campaign said: “While Angela Alsobrooks is campaigning today, instead of just offering more platitudes, we urge her to tell voters how she will address the skyrocketing crime on her watch in Prince George’s County.”

The Hogan campaign also noted a recently released plan to fight crime that includes funding law enforcement, taking repeat violent criminals off the streets and getting guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses and those convicted of violent crimes.

Democrats are clinging to a 51-49 Senate majority. They are defending seats in other states that Trump won four years ago.

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