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Former Chief Warrant Officer Harry Dunn loses Maryland’s congressional primary

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Former Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn has lost his congressional primary in Maryland after a pro-Israel group spent millions of dollars supporting another Democrat in the crowded race.

Dunn, a first-time candidate who gained national attention after publishing a book about his experiences protecting lawmakers during the Jan. 6 insurrection, lost to Sen. Sarah Elfreth in Maryland’s Third Congressional District.

When the Associated Press called the race at 10:27 p.m. ET, about two and a half hours after polls closed in Maryland, Elfreth had an 11-point lead over Dunn. Their twenty other main opponents lagged far behind.

Related: Pro-Israel Pac pours millions into surprise candidate for Maryland primary

Now that the primaries are over, Elfreth is heavily favored to replace retiring Democratic Congressman John Sarbanes in the House of Representatives. The Cook Political Report rates the district, which includes Annapolis and the Washington and Baltimore suburbs, as “solid Democrat.”

Dunn’s defeat set up a controversial election that ultimately cost several million dollars. Dunn proved himself to be an impressive fundraiser, raising $4.6 million during the election cycle. Small-dollar donors made up the bulk of Dunn’s fundraising base, as the candidate often boasted, and his team told the Guardian that the average campaign contribution was $21.64.

Elfreth raised about a third as much money as Dunn, $1.5 million, but her candidacy received significant outside financial help from the group United Democracy Project (UDP), a Super Pac affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac). UDP spent at least $4.2 million supporting Elfreth’s campaign, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Elfreth’s victory comes a week after UDP scored a major victory in Indiana, with the primary loss of former Republican Congressman John Hostettler. UDP spent $1.6 million to prevent Hostettler, who was criticized for making comments deemed anti-Semitic, from returning to the House of Representatives. In March, UDP suffered a defeat in California’s 47th congressional district, where Democrat Dave Min advanced to the general election despite the Super Pac spending $4.6 million on him.

The UDP’s decision to invest in the Maryland primary came as a surprise, as neither Dunn nor Elfreth had been particularly outspoken about US-Israel relations or the war in Gaza. However, fellow candidate and labor lawyer John Morse, who received the support of Senator Bernie Sanders, made his support for a ceasefire in Gaza the centerpiece of his campaign. (When the primary race was declared, Morse had received only 1% of the vote.)

Morse’s candidacy may have pushed UDP to enter the race. In a statement to HuffPost last month, the UDP spokesperson acknowledged Dunn’s “support for a strong US-Israel relationship” but expressed concerns about other candidates in the primary.

“There are a number of seriously anti-Israel candidates in this race who are not Harry Dunn, and we need to make sure they don’t make it to Congress,” spokesman Patrick Dorton said.

Faced with a flood of UDP spending in support of his biggest rival, Dunn opted to make the Super Pac’s involvement in the primaries a campaign issue. In a statement to the Guardian last week, Dunn framed the infusion of Super Pac money into the race as a threat to democracy and an affront to the legacy of Sarbanes, who made campaign finance reform one of his top priorities during his nine terms in Congress. . .

“These groups, funded by Republican extremists, are coming after our movement to protect American democracy. Congressman John Sarbanes spent his career trying to get dark money out of politics; now those same dark money groups are trying to buy this seat,” Dunn said. “If I get into Congress, I know who I will be working for and who I will be accountable to – and it won’t be the dark money donors or the special interest groups.”

But that argument wasn’t enough to carry Dunn to victory, and Elfreth now appears poised to win a House seat in November.