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.”