Trone’s Very Bad First Day as a Candidate

GregAbbottDavid Trone spent his first day as a candidate explain his donations to Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott among others.

I imagine that David Trone hoped his first day on the campaign trail would focus more on his biography as a self-made businessman, generous philanthropist, and family man. His first day, however, was spent explaining the large donations he made to Republicans that I detailed here yesterday.

In his first press release, David Trone stated:

The way I campaign will show 8th District Democrats the kind of Representative I’ll be. First, I will not take any contributions from corporations, lobbyists, or political action committees and will limit individual contributions to $10. Voters will know I mean it when I say I won’t be beholden to anyone but them.

Like many wealthy politicians before him, Trone understands that he can use his wealth to avoid having to appeal to other wealthy men and promote an appearance of independence to the average voter. It helps that Americans generally don’t dislike the wealthy but admire and want to be them.

Except that he spent the first day undermining this message by explaining his donations to Republicans with statements in the Washington Post like:

I sign my checks to buy access.

I’ve passed more laws than most politicians.

Bill Turque reports that he corrected the second statement to explain that he had “lobbied to pass numerous laws.”


Trone says that his financial independence will prevent him from being beholden to others. But donating very large sums puts Trone on the other end of precisely the same transactions. Put another way, if his refusal to accept large donations leaves Trone unbought, should voters regard his own donations as buying politicians?

Trone’s statement on his view of the Republicans to whom he gave major donations will only serve to increase cynicism:

We disagree categorically with their political positions on everything social and economic.

That wouldn’t seem to leave much left. Does he like the foreign policy of the many state Republicans he has supported?

Indeed, Trone disagrees strongly with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a recipient of over $8000 of his largess, on guns. Here is David Trone’s position:

I support comprehensive gun control reform that limits access to assault weapons and expands safety regulations. We need to bring back the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, expand background checks, tighten regulation of the gun dealers, and require safe firearm storage in homes. We need to close loopholes from private sales, including gun shows. Sensible gun laws work in countries that use them.

In contrast, Abbott signed laws to allow the concealed carrying of handguns on campus and open carrying of guns in the State. Trone may have donated for his own business purposes but he also helped promote gun laws that he opposes.

When Abbott was Attorney General, he described his job as “I go into the office in the morning. I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.” Abbott opposes the DREAM Act. Not exactly someone with whom a Democratic candidate normally wants ties.

Abbott’s relationships with donors have come under heavy scrutiny:

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was supposed to provide funding for cancer research. But soon after its implementation, the multi-billion dollar entity was awarding grants to donors of Rick Perry and Greg Abbott without the proper review. Scientists resigned in protest, and an investigation into the activities of the fund has since resulted in a felony indictment.

Trone’s strong statement of disagreement with Abbott and other Republicans on major issues just reinforces his statement that he was buying access to lots of officials. And some may rightly or wrongly make the leap to something more, particularly in light of Trone’s braggadocio about having passed legislation.

David Trone is a real star in the wine business. He has revolutionized that industry and built a great company. His opening campaign statements do not demonstrate the same acumen.


Confused Candidate Alert: Vogt Attacks Raskin–Who is Running in a Different District

Sixth District Republican Candidate David Vogt appears to think he is running against Eighth District Democratic Candidate Jamie Raskin. Yesterday, he issued a press release attacking Raskin for “dangerous political correctness”:

“Senator Raskin’s letter is evident of how dangerous and disturbing political correctness can be,” Vogt commented.  “As representatives, we owe it to our constituents to place their safety and security above all else.  Senator Raskin’s irresponsible approach would instead make Maryland a more dangerous place.”

“Until we have an effective and secure vetting process, Maryland should close its borders to anyone with potential terrorist ties.  That’s the only way we can be sure that we are keeping Marylanders safe,” Vogt concluded.

Vogt attacked Raskin for this letter, which Raskin authored and many Maryland legislators signed, to express support for Syrian refugees in the face of the fear incited by Gov. Larry Hogan and many other Republicans:

It’s easy to pick on Syrian refugees. They’re Arab. Most are Muslim. Understandably, many Americans fear terrorism and turmoil originating in that part of the world.

As Vogt likes to remind us–it’s mentioned twice at the beginning and twice again at the end of this short press release–he was a decorated marine who served this country well in Afghanistan. That honorable service and risking of life in our country’s defense deserves to be honored.

But it also takes guts to stand up in support of an unpopular and highly vulnerable group. Raskin isn’t being politically correct here. He’s standing up in support of the very ideals that we’re grateful to Vogt for defending even as I disagree with his stance here.

I’m no fan of political correctness–it’s often overbearing and tiresome. Moreover, it makes it easier for bigots like Donald Trump to brand Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals in the name of fighting political correctness.

Real leadership, however, is often not about whipping up fear but promoting calm. As John Oliver has pointed out, this country has an extensive vetting process for Syrian refugees–a fact that somehow never seems to get mentioned in these calls to keep them out.

Whatever you think of Raskin’s stance, it’s a principled one. It’s easy for leaders to go along with the majority but we should also admire when they’re willing to defend passionately and cogently a minority view. It shows a lot more political courage than Vogt’s press release.



David Trone is a Major Republican Donor

David Trone is jumping into the race for the Democratic nomination for the Eighth Congressional District. He calls himself a “strong Democrat” but will have to explain quickly his major heavy donations to Republican candidates.

Trone Donated Far More to Republicans Than Democrats in State Elections

Trone has donated far more to Republicans than Democrats in state contests. According to, he gave $161,016 to Republican candidates since 2000 (see below). That compares to just $94,113, or 29%, to Democrats and $37,850 to unidentified candidates. Interestingly, all $26,500 of his donations in Maryland were to Democrats.

Trone has donated to right-wing conservatives, including:

  • $8,941 to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
  • $15,000 to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
  • $2,500 to Thom Tillis, North Carolina U.S. Senator and former Speaker of the North Carolina House.
  • $8,000 to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.
  • $4,500 to Henry McMaster, South Carolina Lt. Governor and former Attorney General and State Senator.

More Democratic in Federal and Other Donations

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the direction of Trone’s federal donations has been quite different–lopsidedly in favor of Democrats. Since 1990, Trone has given $55,050 to Democratic candidates, including the maximum legal donation of $2,700 to Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign. He also donated $1,000 to Republican William Gormley’s in support of his unsuccessful  2000 U.S. Senate bid in New Jersey.

Trone’s has also made thousands of dollars in donations to state parties, legislative caucuses, and PACs. Like his federal donations, these have listed more in the Democratic direction, though he donated $2,975 to the Senate Republican Caucuses in South Carolina and Virginia.

Bottom Line

David Trone has given a lot of money to a variety of staunch conservatives. While self-funding his own campaign, he has also funded many Republican campaigns. Kathleen Matthews can argue her $2,600 donation to conservative Republican Sen. Roy Blunt was a one off. But this record shows a pattern of giving large sums to Republicans over many years.

Trone Has Donated to These Republicans

Trone R Donations1 Trone R Donations2 Trone R Donations3 Trone R Donations4 Trone R Donations5 Trone R Donations6


David Trone Jumps into Eighth Congressional District Race

Bethesda Beat has the story:

Saying that he had been thinking about running for Congress since he was in his 20s, David Trone, the 60-year old co-owner of Bethesda-based Total Wine & More, is jumping into the race for the Democratic nomination in the 8th Congressional District—and is planning to use his considerable wealth to self-fund his campaign.

We’ll have more on Trone in the morning.


Snowzilla Communication Breakdown

Thanks to Adam Pagnucco for this guest post:

Snowzilla has turned out to be a historic storm. Every local jurisdiction from the City of Baltimore to Northern Virginia has struggled to recover from it, and Montgomery County is no exception. While MoCo residents complain about the pace of snow removal, with and without justification, there is no evidence that the county has performed worse than comparable jurisdictions. But one area in which it has fallen short is communicating with its residents.

Most residents have one question on their minds: when can I escape from my neighborhood? Let’s be fair: during a mega-event like Snowzilla, that’s a really hard question to answer. The county is coordinating a large fleet of employees and contractors, as well as working with other agencies like the state, Metro, Park and Planning and MCPS. A great deal of the equipment being used is not GPS-enabled. The most honest answer is also the least satisfactory: we don’t know.

The county chose to rely on its snow removal map to deal with resident questions. The county’s Department of Transportation repeatedly directed residents to the map on Twitter.

MCDOT map tweet 1-23 MCDOT map tweet 1-25The problem is that the map wasn’t showing any useful information. Below is an image of the map as of Tuesday, January 26. The map shows that every county street in Glenmont, Wheaton and unincorporated Kensington was “in progress.” It showed similar information all over the county. That’s physically impossible. The county doesn’t have enough equipment to be everywhere at once and residents know that.

Snowmap 1-26-2016Faced with a non-functioning map, residents overwhelmed MC 311. Some called only to hear a recording. Even if they got through, no answers were available. Again, the county simply didn’t know when individual neighborhoods would be cleared, even though they claimed the map would say so.

Meanwhile, municipalities appeared to be doing a better job. Consider the Facebook posts of Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman. On Saturday, January 23, the Mayor reported that all city streets had received a first pass. He then reported that all streets would receive a second pass the following morning. This is a period during which county plows had not reached neighborhood streets at all. Residents of unincorporated areas, for which the county has responsibility, have friends in municipalities and were aware of their performance. This only increased their frustrations.

Jud first pass Jud second passCouncil Member Hans Riemer (my former employer) nailed it in a post on Facebook. Noting his work on securing funding for an upgraded snow map and planning for pedestrian mobility during snow storms, he wrote: “Better communications technology would save our residents a lot of anxiety during snow events, and enable them to more adequately plan for their work and family lives. If technology answered more questions, it would also take pressure off of our 311 call center, which has been completely overwhelmed by the volume of calls they’ve received during this storm.” And he’s absolutely right.

Hans snowSnowzilla was a gigantic storm and public employees across the region deserve tremendous credit for their recovery efforts. But MoCo had a communication breakdown that made a stressful event worse. Here’s hoping that Council Member Riemer and his colleagues can help the county prepare to do better next time.


MSEA Decries Hogan’s Effort to Shift Public Dollars to Private Schools


The following is from MSEA’s press release:

MSEA Statement on Gov. Hogan’s 2016 Education Proposals

Proposed BOAST Program Would Divert Taxpayer Dollars From Public Schools to Private Schools

Annapolis, Maryland — This morning, Gov. Hogan’s office released details on his 2016 proposals for education initiatives, including the same BOAST legislation he unsuccessfully introduced last year. Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, made the following statement:

“If Gov. Hogan’s goal is to make sure every student has the opportunity to succeed, BOAST (now called the Maryland Education Credit by private school advocates) should have been the last option on his list. It’s a voucher-like scheme designed to move tens of millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools into private schools. Not only does it create new tax breaks for corporations, it would only help students who can already afford to attend private school. It would do nothing for low-income students except make it harder to fund their public schools.

“BOAST is opposed by nearly 60% of Maryland voters—including a plurality of Republicans—at a time when Marylanders believe their public schools need more funding, not less. Support for private school education is a distraction from the larger education issues at hand, like reducing standardized testing, closing opportunity gaps, and increasing public school funding.

“Educators look forward to working with legislators to reject this proposal—and a similar $5 million giveaway proposed in the governor’s budget—and advance effective solutions that truly improve our public schools.”


How a Trone Race Could Help Matthews

The following is a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

As first reported by David Lublin and followed by Bethesda Magazine and the Washington Post, Total Wine Co-Founder David Trone is considering a run in the Eighth Congressional District. The conventional wisdom seems to be that a Trone candidacy would hurt Kathleen Matthews. Bethesda Magazine’s Lou Peck writes:

At first blush, it would appear that a Trone candidacy could be a political blow to Matthews, who—despite a lack of prior political involvement in the 8th District—has become a top-tier candidate thanks to a fundraising base that has drawn big-name contributors from Washington well as from several other major cities across the country. (Among the recent donors to Matthews: Robert Trone, also a Potomac resident, who gave her the maximum $2,700 contribution last June.)

While Matthews has sought to emphasize her prior background as a local TV news reporter and anchor, her tenure at Marriott over the past decade has given her a base of business backing that Trone could cut into. And Trone’s ability to self-fund a campaign could neutralize Matthews’ large campaign warchest, accumulated since last summer thanks to her network of contacts and those of her husband, MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews.

The Post’s Bill Turque writes:

Should Trone decide to run, it would not be good news for Matthews, who is courting the kind of business community support that Trone could also claim. Trone would also likely diminish Matthews’s fundraising advantage (more than $1 million through Sept. 30), which she has accumulated through the network of corporate and political contacts developed in tandem with her husband Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

Lou Peck and Bill Turque are both great reporters, but I disagree with the opinions of their sources. If Trone gets in, it could actually help Matthews win the race. Here’s why.

1. The business community has money, but they don’t have a lot of loyal voters – especially in Montgomery County Democratic primaries. My hunch is that Matthews already has raised enough money to put on a competitive campaign. We will find out in a few days when the end-of-year finance reports come in. And her nationwide Democratic fundraising network, bolstered by her famous and well-connected husband, goes far outside the business community. As for Trone, he doesn’t need to compete with Matthews for money because he can self-finance.

2. If Trone gets in, that means Matthews would be the only woman running a competitive campaign against three men–Trone, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Kumar Barve. Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez has so far not raised enough money to be a top-tier contender.  (I am sorry for saying that, Ana!)  There are many examples in recent MoCo political history of female candidates doing well against men, either one-on-one or facing groups of men. They include:

Cheryl Kagan, 2014: Kagan, a former Delegate, was significantly outspent by incumbent Delegate Lou Simmons in the open seat primary for the District 17 Senate seat.  Kagan won by ten points.

Ariana Kelly, 2010: Kelly was the only female challenger in a jam-packed primary for an open District 16 Delegate seat.  Fellow challenger Kyle Lierman spent almost twice as much as Kelly, but she picked up the Apple Ballot and won a tight contest.

Ariana Kelly, 2014: Challengers Marc Korman and Hrant Jamgochian each spent significantly more than Kelly as they battled it out for an open seat.  Kelly was the only woman who ran a viable campaign and she finished first in the primary by nearly a thousand votes.

Sheila Hixson, 2014: The long-time incumbent faced a scrum of challengers for two open Delegate seats, one of whom self-financed over $400,000.  But Hixson, the only female candidate, smoked everyone and had a margin of more than 2,000 votes over the second-place finisher.

Nancy Floreen, 2010 and 2014: In 2010, Floreen competed with two other top-tier female candidates, fellow incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg and Becky Wagner, and finished third in the council at-large primary.  In 2014, Floreen was the only female at-large incumbent and had just one viable female challenger, Beth Daly.  This time Floreen finished second, her best result ever.

Yes, there are mitigating circumstances in all of the above races and women don’t always win.  In 2014, female challengers took on popular male incumbents in Council District 1 and Senate District 18 and lost badly. But there is definitely a pattern here for open seats and multiple seat races, because:

3. Women are majorities of Democratic voters, no matter how you slice the data. Below are extracts from Montgomery County’s voter registration file as of January 2015. First, let’s look at MoCo Democratic voters in gubernatorial elections.

Gender GubernatorialNext, let’s look at MoCo Democratic voters in presidential elections.

Gender PresidentialWomen are majorities in every single category of MoCo Democrats.  When just one woman is running a competitive campaign against two or three competitive men, that matters.  It also matters that Hillary Clinton is on the ballot and the possible departure of Donna Edwards from Congress could create an all-male federal delegation from Maryland.

All of these things bode well for Kathleen Matthews.  If I were in her camp, I would say, “Mister Trone, welcome to the race.”


Will David Trone Take the Plunge?

Washington Post Reporter Bill Turque has confirmed that David Trone is “mulling” a bid for Congress. The news that Trone had a poll in the field testing messages about himself and two opponents was “first reported” here at the Seventh State.

Turque’s report concurs with my assessment that a Trone run “might cut more” into Kathleen Matthews’ support:

Should Trone decide to run, it would not be good news for Matthews, who is courting the kind of business community support that Trone could also claim. Trone would also likely diminish Matthews’ fundraising advantage (more than $1 million through Sept. 30), which she has accumulated through the network of corporate and political contacts developed in tandem with her husband Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

Indeed, several think Trone is considering the plunge precisely because of concerns regarding Matthews:

 Some District 8 political insiders speculate that Trone is weighing the race because private sector leaders are not confident that Matthews, also a political novice, can beat Raskin, a popular incumbent state lawmaker from Takoma Park[.]

Trone is wealthier than Matthews, so he would be able to spend even more money on his own campaign. Other than that, I don’t know why Trone would be a better candidate than Matthews, who brings oodles of media and public relations experience to her campaign.

Women compose a disproportionate share of the Democratic primary electorate, so Matthews might have the advantage there as well. Matthews is one of two women in the race along with Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez (D-18).

No doubt Trone’s poll may provide some private illumination to help him assess his chances. The filing deadline is February 3rd, so we’ll know if Trone is in or out within eight days.


Hogan Throws Commerce Secretary Under the Bus

gill with hoganNo longer all smiles between Governor Larry Hogan (center) and Secretary of Commerce Michael Gill (right)

From the Daily Record:

A proposal to create a tax incentive for manufacturers to relocate to Maryland represents a change of course for at least some in Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration.

The governor’s announcement earlier this month reverses a position expressed less than a year ago when Michael Gill, Hogan’s recently appointed secretary of what is now the state Department of Commerce, penned a letter urging lawmakers to focus on existing manufacturing in the state.

But late Friday, after The Daily Record posted online a story referencing Gill’s letter, a Hogan spokesman said the governor was unaware of the letter and that it was not authorized.

“It does not represent the views of the governor,” said Douglass Mayer. “The governor has been a long-time supporter of Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s effort and program in New York.”

In the words of Cool Hand Luke, “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

I hope to have more assessment of this tax proposal shortly and look forward to hearing from the Governor what he plans to cut in the budget to fund this proposal. Sen. Roger Manno (D-19) had already planned to introduce a similar idea this session.