Select Trone Family Donations

TronesFurman’s President presents a symbolic key to the new Trone Student Center to David, June, and Robert Trone who donated $3.5 million

David Trone’s decision to conduct a poll made it known unintentionally that he is thinking about becoming a late entry into the race for the Democratic nomination in the Eighth District. Trone is 60, lives in Potomac. He has voted in every election since 2006 except for the 2010 and 2010 primaries.

Along with his younger brother, Robert, he owns Total Wine, a major retail outlet for alcoholic beverages based in Montgomery County. This successful chain known for its excellent prices operates stores in a variety of states but cannot open one in Montgomery due to limitations placed by the State and the County liquor monopoly.

The Trone family is quite active in giving money to a range of causes and politicians, including many beyond those detailed here. David Trone recently donated $15 million to the ACLU to reduce the prison population and help ex-convicts get jobs:

David Trone, of Potomac, cited Total Wine’s support of the “ban the box” movement — which seeks removal of the criminal-record check box from job applications — as a factor in his gift and an example of what private-sector partners can accomplish.

“Yes, people make mistakes,” he said. “But if they paid the price and now want to build a better life, why should that mistake have to carry with them the rest of their lives?”

Previously, David Trone and his wife, June, have donated over $1 million to the ACLU. June has also contributed to Republicans, including Mitt Romney and the RNC.

Interestingly, on June 9th of last year, Robert Trone made a $2,700 contribution to Kathleen Matthews, who is already running hard for the Democratic nomination in the Eighth.


Adam Pagnucco: Outside the Statehouse, Franchot is King

The following is a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Senate President Mike Miller and Comptroller Peter Franchot have renewed their decade-long feud, to the delight of journalists, bloggers and pundits alike. Whether it’s about slots, tax collection issues, Baltimore County public school air conditioners or just the joy of a good barroom brawl, the Miller-Franchot war sometimes abates but never ends. Speculation pops up every couple of years that the Senate President will find a challenger to take the Comptroller out. After all, Miller is arguably the most powerful non-Governor in Maryland history and the statehouse is his domain. But outside the statehouse, Franchot is King.

Why do I say that? Consider the following.

1. Statewide Results

Below are the vote totals and percentages of major party candidates for Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General for the last two general elections. (Attorney General Doug Gansler, who had no opponent in 2010, is omitted.) Franchot’s results are the best in the field. In fact, to find statewide politicians who regularly matched or exceeded his margins, you would have to go back more than a decade to the days of William Donald Schaefer, Louie Goldstein and Joe Curran.

Franchot Top Statewide Vote Getters

2. County Results

Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown was the ultimate creation of the state Democratic establishment. And Franchot? Well… let’s just say he’s not. Below is a comparison of the votes obtained by the two in every county in the 2014 general election. Franchot received more votes than Brown in every local jurisdiction, including Brown’s home base of Prince George’s. In the big three liberal jurisdictions (Montgomery, Baltimore City and Prince George’s), the vote totals for Brown and Franchot were similar, suggesting that loyal Democrats supported both of them. Franchot’s edge came from the rest of the state. He received at least 50% more votes than Brown in 15 of 24 counties, including the critical swing jurisdictions of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel. Brown carried just four jurisdictions against Larry Hogan – Prince George’s, Baltimore City, Montgomery and Charles. Franchot carried all of them in the general election, plus Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Dorchester, Howard, Kent and Talbot. Tell me again why Franchot should fear the establishment?

Franchot County Results

3. Legislative Districts and Sub-District Results

The State Board of Elections has data on the performance of Franchot, Brown and Hogan for every one of Maryland’s 67 legislative districts and sub-districts. (The state has 47 Senate districts but many of them are carved up into smaller sub-districts for Delegates.) This further illuminates the electoral dominance of Franchot over Brown.

Franchot received more votes than Brown in 63 of the 67 districts. All four in which Brown did better were in Prince George’s. Franchot received more votes than either Brown OR Hogan in 32 districts – nearly half of them. Franchot’s occasional deviations from progressive orthodoxy didn’t hurt him in liberal Montgomery or Baltimore City, as he out-polled Brown in every district either entirely or partially within their boundaries.

In the following nine districts, Franchot received more than twice as many votes as Brown.

Franchot Brown DistrictsThese districts go from moderately red to deep red. They are represented by a combined 8 Republican Senators, 21 Republican Delegates and 1 Democratic Senator – Baltimore County’s renegade blue dog, Jim Brochin. In many of these places, liberal Democrats are considered alien life forms. But Franchot has a following here.

Perhaps the most interesting of these districts is Dundalk-based District 6. Dundalk is a fabled ancestral home of white, blue-collar, unionized Democrats, but it has been trending to the GOP. In 2014, Hogan defeated Brown here with 76% of the vote. Democratic Delegate John Olszewski Jr. lost the Senate race to unknown Republican Johnny Ray Salling, who raised just $15,429. The district’s three Delegate seats flipped from all Democratic to all Republican – and it wasn’t close. A Republican succeeded Olszewski’s father in Dundalk’s County Council seat with 62% of the vote. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz lost the fifteen Dundalk precincts to an obscure, underfinanced Republican by a 59-41% margin. Attorney General Brian Frosh lost to a no-name Republican here by 53-41%. But Franchot won the district 52-48.

I know what you’re thinking: Franchot had a weak opponent. Sure. But 2014 was a year in which seemingly weak Republicans had great success. They knocked out numerous Democratic incumbents, including prominent ones like Olszewski, Senator Roy Dyson, Delegates John Bohanan, David Rudolph and Norm Conway, and Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt. They came close to defeating Brochin and Senator Ron Young. The ultimate no-name Republican was Larry Hogan, a man who had never served in public office, had no starting name recognition and had to draw on public financing to compete with the MUCH better funded Anthony Brown. Remember when Brown referred to the general election as “a little bit of a mole hill?” But Hogan won in the best year in recent memory for “weak” Republicans. Amid all this tumult, Franchot increased his win margin in the general election by two points over 2010.

Here is the key question: could it be that Franchot’s socially liberal, fiscally moderate stance combines the best of Hogan and Brown and has made him Maryland’s most popular state-level Democrat? Maryland voters approved gay marriage and the Dream Act in 2012, and according to a recent Washington Post poll, support many liberal priorities. But they elected an openly anti-tax Governor and, according to the above poll, rank the economy and taxes as their second and third issue priorities. (Education is number one.) This mix of liberalism and moderation fits Franchot’s issue profile better than any other prominent Maryland politician.

Democrats should ponder all of this as they prepare to campaign against Hogan in 2018.


MCDCC Taps Zucker for Senate

zuckerCraig Zucker

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) voted 25-2-1 to nominate Del. Craig Zucker to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Sen. Karen Montgomery. Central Committee Members Venattia Vann and Loretta Garcia voted instead for former Del. Herman Taylor. MCDCC Vice Chair Arthur Edmunds, who lives in District 14, abstained.

Once Gov. Larry Hogan formally appoints Zucker, MCDCC will once again have to fill a vacancy, this time in the House of Delegates. The current delegation is supporting Central Committee Member Pam Queen for that spot. Herman Taylor left open the possibility of seeking the seat when I spoke to him prior Zucker’s appointment.

Craig Zucker may well become the first person ever to vote to override the Governor’s veto in both chambers of the General Assembly. Earlier this week, he joined with the House majority to overturn the veto of the bill to restore the voting rights of ex-felons. The Senate has delayed the override vote until after the Governor fills the District 14 vacancy. Of course, all of this is perfectly legal and ethical but will make for an interesting bit of political history.

Congratulations to Craig Zucker. He already represents the same people in the House of Delegates so his set of constituents will remain the same. Former Del. Herman Taylor may not have won support from MCDCC but merits thanks for putting himself forward as well as his past work in the House of Delegates.


Game of Trone? David Trone Tests Waters in Eighth District

David TroneDavid Trone

David Trone of Total Wine is thinking about becoming a late entry into the Eighth Congressional District Democratic primary. Trone has never held or run for elective office previously but is wealthy and could self finance a campaign.

Trone is currently conducting a poll that tests general opinions about candidates as well as the impact of messages regarding Kathleen Matthews and Jamie Raskin. So what is Trone’s game?

Messages Tested about Trone

The positive messages tested about Trone include information that he has never been involved in politics, grew up on a farm and then grew a family business, gave millions to liberal causes, and will self-fund rather than take money from special interests.

Trone’s nascent campaign also tested concerns regarding messages that he has been involved in numerous business and private lawsuits, given money to politicians who could affect his business, and failed to vote several times. Kind of Trone to do the opposition research for his potential opponents.

Messages Tested about Matthews and Raskin

The negative messages tested about Kathleen Matthews are that she said she didn’t know anything about business and was just a PR person for Marriott. Additionally, the poll mentioned that she made the maximum allowed contribution to Missouri Sen. Blunt, who is very anti-choice and tried to remove birth control from Obamacare.

The poll looked at the effect of telling voters that Jamie Raskin once represented Ross Perot and defended Ralph Nader’s participation in the 2000 presidential debate. Additionally, Raskin was characterized as an Annapolis insider endorsed by Mike Miller and the Annapolis establishment.


It’s very late to get into the game and build a campaign organization but Trone certainly has the money to conduct a good media campaign. I imagine Trone could also hire a bunch of people to help with the ground campaign but hired door knockers and phone callers are just never nearly as good as volunteers.

Trone appears to want to present himself as a savvy business outsider–the same appeal as Donald Trump only presumably without the outrageous racist baggage. Matthews is currently seen as the candidate with stronger business ties, so his entry might cut more into her potential support.

None of the potential attacks strike me as particularly effective. The attack on Matthews’ business skills strikes me as one that provides her with a major opportunity to come out swinging and plays to her well-honed media skills. I suspect it would rebound on Trone. Why a candidate who has made many campaign donations would want to highlight a single one by Matthews is also a bit of a mystery.

The attack on Raskin for defending debate participation is dated and arcane. Though Mike Miller has been Senate President since the time of James Monroe, I suspect few voters are truly aware of the powers he wields. Among Democrats, the Annapolis establishment hardly inspires terror in any case.

Remember that many Eighth District voters work in Washington and live inside the Beltway, so these attacks may just not resonate here. If this is the worst Trone can conjure up, both Matthews and Raskin have little to fear.

I imagine Trone hopes to be another John Delaney who comes in and sweeps more established candidates aside. The problem is that Matthews is not a long-time politician and Raskin has always run as a progressive change candidate. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutiérrez have ties to voters and their own forms of outsider appeals.

Trone’s money nevertheless gives him the potential to shake up the race. If nothing else, his entry would highlight the issue of liquor control in Montgomery County. Total Wine is based in Montgomery County but cannot open one of its stores here.


Matthews Donated $1000 to Franchot One Day after Endorsement

Matthews Donation History to FranchotMatthews Donates $1000 to Franchot One Day after Endorsement

Definitely nothing illegal but the optics are not good.

On January 11, Eighth Congressional District Candidate Kathleen Matthews announced support from Comptroller Peter Franchot (see below). The very next day she donated $1000 to Friends of Peter Franchot–the Comptroller’s campaign account (see above).

Obviously, the timing looks bad. It just doesn’t look good to donate $1000 the day after receiving a big endorsement. It’s also very strange because Matthews needs every dollar she can raise for her congressional Democratic primary in April. Franchot doesn’t face another election until 2018.

The donation turns a major endorsement that, as Adam Pagnucco pointed out, Matthews should have touted more into one with an awkward appearance that she should avoid. A surprising outcome all around from a very media-savvy candidate.

Matthews Press Release about Franchot

Announcement of Franchot’s Endorsement of Matthews


House Overrides Governor on Marriott/Hotel Accommodations

The Maryland House joined the Senate by promptly voting to override the Governor’s veto of Rich Madaleno’s bill that requires the same tax rate levied on hotel rooms sold by third-party hotel bookers as by the hotels themselves. This bill is a major step toward keeping Marriott in Maryland and Montgomery County.

As explained in previous posts, Hogan vetoed the bill out of fear of looking like he was supporting a tax increase. Bizarrely, this meant that the Governor favored forcing business located in Maryland who bring business and employment to the State to pay more taxes than out-of-state hotel bookers. The latter pocketed the savings and did not pass it on to consumers.

Here is the roll-call vote. All Democrats voted to override except Del. Eric Bromwell (D-Baltimore County) and Del. Ned Carey (D-Anne Arundel).

Marriott House


Just In: Senate Overrides Hogan on Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia

Here’s the tally sheet. Democrats voting no are John Astle (D-Anne Arundel) and Jim Brochin (D-Baltimore County). Brochin is a regular Democratic defector but Astle is part of his party’s leadership team. No Republicans voted against the Governor. (UPDATE: I missed that Jim Mathias (D-Eastern Shore) also voted no. As always, thanks for the correction.)

Marijuana Override


Override Thursday: Voting Rights and Marriott

Voting Rights Restoration Override Vote Postponed

The Maryland Senate special ordered (i.e. postponed) the vote on the Governor’s veto of the bill to restore the voting rights of ex-felons to a later date. The House overrode the Governor’s veto yesterday. The lead sponsors are Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Del. Cory McCray.

The Senate President stated forthrightly on the floor that this was to allow time for the appointment of a replacement to former Sen. Karen Montgomery (D-14). Rumor has it that many General Assembly Democrats are not thrilled about the timing or handling of this appointment.

Keep Marriott in Maryland

The Maryland Senate took a major step toward keeping Marriott headquarters in Maryland by overriding the Governor’s veto of a bill that requires the same tax rate levied on hotel rooms sold by third-party hotel bookers as by the hotels themselves.

This seemingly obvious fairness–the major request of the Marriott Corporation whose headquarters Montgomery County is working hard to retain–had the Governor cowering in fear that it might be cast as a tax increase. It’s evidence that the Governor’s ideological passion exceeds his desire to keep major companies in Maryland.

As the tally sheet shows, the Senate achieved the 29 votes required to override a veto with one to spare despite Sen. Montgomery’s retirement. A real victory for Senate Budget and Taxation Vice Chair Rich Madaleno who pushed hard for the bill.

Marriott OverrideTwo vote switchers from the original bill are Sen. Addie Eckardt (R-Eastern Shore) and Sen. John Astle (D-Anne Arundel). Eckardt’s switch was not surprising, as Republicans tend to want to rally around the Governor to support a veto.

In contrast, Astle is a member of the Democratic leadership team, so his vote to support the Governor was a shock. Indeed, this Montgomery blogger wonders if Montgomery Senate Democrats might return the favor by voting to uphold the veto on funding for Anne Arundel–except that the Speaker wants it.

UPDATE: Sen. C. Anthony Muse also flipped, which is interesting since Gaylord Marriott, located at National Harbor in his district, in Prince George’s made it a top priority. Additionally. Sens. DeGrange and Peters–both Democrats–switched from red on the original bill to voting to green on this vote.


What Are You Doing with Your $5.99?

mcdonalds-Quarter-Pounder-with-CheeseAfter buying this McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese ($4.78) with your tax cut, you likely won’t have enough left for fries or a soda.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget is remarkable for how little it appears to do, at least at first glance. For a governor who trumpeted his desire to cut taxes, the tax cuts are unexciting:

The proposal would also deliver $36 million in fee and tax reductions this year, partly by speeding up tax breaks already approved by the legislature and partly by making new cuts. . . .

Hogan has described his tax plan as “modest.” Legislative analysts suggest it would reduce revenues by more than $100 million a year when fully implemented.

Modest is indeed the word. This year’s tax cut amounts to $5.99 per Maryland resident based on last year’s population estimates. I suppose it’s a little more exciting at $16.02 per household.

Budget Director David Brinkley said that “Taxpayers would see ‘more money in their pockets.'” Just don’t try to take the family to McDonalds on the savings.

More commendably in uncertain times, the Governor is setting aside much of the projected surplus for savings:

The operating budget leaves about $450 million unspent, even after the state stashes more than 6 percent of its surplus in its ‘Rainy Day Fund.’ Bond agencies recommend saving 5 percent.

On the other hand, the Governor’s budget: (1) raises college tuition by 2%–nearly three times last year’s estimated 0.7% rate of inflation, (2) once again plans foolishly to take public money and give it to private schools, and (3) does not yet include any money for Baltimore to knock down vacant homes.


Override Wednesday

felonvotingrightsRoll-Call Board. Photo by Del. Maricé Morales

Restoration of Ex-Felon Voting Rights

Earlier today, the House of Delegates overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of Cory McCray’s bill to restore ex-felon voting rights by a vote of 85 to 56–the exact number of votes needed to achieve the 60% needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

Based on my quick scan of the board, six Democrats voted with the Governor: Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8, Baltimore County), Del. Ned Carey (D-31A, Anne Arundel), Del. Mark Chang (D-32, Anne Arundel), Del. Ted Sophocleus (D-32, Anne Arundel), Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-34A, Harford), and Del. C.T. Wilson (D-28, Charles). Wilson was the only member of the Legislative Black Caucus to oppose overriding the Governor’s veto.

One Republican, Del. Glen Glass (R-34A, Harford), voted with the Democrats.

Anne Arundel Capital Spending

The House also comfortably overrode the Governor’s petty veto of capital spending supported by Speaker Michael Busch for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Anne Arundel County by 92-49. Here is the Baltimore Sun‘s report on how the members of the Anne Arundel delegation voted:

House Speaker Mike Busch and Dels. Pam Beidle, Ben Barnes, Herb McMillan, Ned Carey, Barbara Frush and Joseline Pena-Melnyk voted in favor of the override.

Dels. Nic Kipke, Tony McConkey, Ted Sophocleus, Seth Howard, Meagan Simonaire, Mark Chang, Sid Saab and Michael Malone voted against.

Republican Del. Herb McMillan (R-30A), who represents the same district as Speaker Busch, supported the override. Democratic Dels. Mark Chang (D-32) and Ted Sophocleus (D-32) voted to uphold the Governor’s veto.

UPDATE: I am told that Dels. Chang and Sophocleus changed their votes verbally after the recorded vote on this bill. As a result, no Anne Arundel Democrats voted against the Speaker in the final official vote count.