Tag Archives: David Trone

Three Strategies for Winning CD8

Today, I am pleased to present a guest post from Adam Pagnucco:

With roughly ten weeks until early voting begins in the 2016 primary, candidates for Congress in District 8 are entering the home stretch. Three candidates are leading the field, and each of them has a different strategy for winning. Whichever one of these strategies is best suited for the race will play a major role in determining the winner.

And these strategies are:


Roll Call recently reported that Total Wine co-owner David Trone made a $900,000 ten-day TV and radio ad buy in early February. Bethesda Magazine’s Lou Peck wrote, “The Trone campaign is making what is known in TV ad lingo as a 600-point buy: The aim is to ensure that 80 percent of adult viewers see an ad seven times or more.” And since Trone has nearly limitless resources and has vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to win, we should expect to see more of this.

Let’s put Trone’s opening bid in context. First, in ten days, he spent more than Senator Jamie Raskin’s entire cash on hand ($869,000) and almost as much as Kathleen Matthews’ entire cash on hand ($1.1 million). Second, this one expenditure is almost equal to Chris Van Hollen’s total spending in the 2002 primary ($1.1 million). Third, it’s more than half of what Congressional District 6 candidate John Delaney paid SKD Knickerbocker for media production and ad buys ($1.7 million) in the entire 2012 primary. And there’s still three months to go.

Trone must find Delaney’s success encouraging. And he certainly has a success story to share. But this year’s CD8 race is different in many respects from the CD6 race in 2012.

  1. CD8 is jam-packed with liberal Democrats in Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington and Wheaton, while half of CD6 is located in considerably less liberal Western Maryland. The latter district is indisputably more hospitable to self-made businessmen like Trone and Delaney.
  1. Delaney’s principal rival, then-State Senator Rob Garagiola, did not have an aggressive grassroots operation as does Senator Jamie Raskin.
  1. The 2012 campaign did not feature a prominent female candidate like Kathleen Matthews.
  1. Delaney was endorsed by Bill Clinton and the Washington Post. Trone has no obvious connection to the Clintons and we will see what the Post chooses to do.

Trone definitely has the attention of the other candidates, with Delegate Kumar Barve sending out an email titled “Fighting Big Bullies” and Raskin stating, “Public office is something you earn, not something you buy.” Trone seems likely to break local race spending records. The big question is how CD8 Democratic primary voters will respond.


Jamie Raskin has built what is probably the biggest grassroots organizing operation in the county since Van Hollen’s 2002 race. Unlike most candidates who hide their internal campaign measures, Raskin puts them out for all to see. He has adeptly grown from his Takoma Park/Silver Spring base and tapped into activist networks all over the district, aided by his legions of local elected endorsers. He has responded to Kathleen Matthews by assembling a voluminous “Women for Jamie” group. And there is little question that a huge majority of the precinct-level liberal activists are with him.

The big question about Raskin is whether the time he is spending in Annapolis will impede his campaign’s ability to grow. Raskin is a superb one-on-one and small group campaigner. No one is better in a backyard full of progressives. Unlike many people with his level of intellect, Raskin comes across as both smart AND likable – a great talent for a politician. But with Raskin tied up in the Mike Miller Senate Office Building through early April, those assets are not as deployable and they don’t transfer quite as well to television or mail.

Another question about Raskin’s network is how far it penetrates into the community. He definitely has the activist liberals who are critical for winning State Senate and Delegate races. But what about PTA officers and volunteers, civic association leaders, faith leaders and small business people? Raskin is going to be outspent by both Trone and Matthews and his network must be big enough to offset that. If it is, Raskin can corral the progressive vote and win.

Stand Out

Three, maybe four, candidates will have the resources to compete. All of them will have a progressive message. All of them will talk about standard Democratic issues that are also being raised in the presidential campaign. But only one of them is a woman and only one of them has 25 years of experience on television. That’s Kathleen Matthews.

Let’s understand that nearly 60% of Montgomery County’s electorate is female no matter how you cut the data. The Matthews campaign certainly gets that. Below is the cover of the eight-page foldout lit piece that is currently being distributed by their field operation. You don’t need to see the rest of it; the cover says it all.

Matthews Door Cover

Here’s the reaction of the regular female voter who received that piece. “It’s a nice brochure. I haven’t thought about the race. But she is certainly hitting all the right marks for me as a female Dem. I have to admit that the thought of getting another woman in Congress, particularly someone with her knowledge and high profile, is tempting.”

That’s music to the ears of the Matthews campaign.

Matthews has a quiet, but growing field operation that is now roaming the district. Unlike Raskin, the campaign does not advertise its statistics. Her real strength is going to be on television. Trone can run all the ads he wants, but none of these candidates can match Matthews’ abilities on camera. Her campaign’s weakness is that it has not had much of a local dimension to this point. But one TV ad on a hot local issue like Metro could go a long way towards remedying that. No one is better equipped than Matthews to do a film shot at a Metro station with frustrated riders, and then pivot to the camera declaring, “Metro riders deserve better. When I am elected to Congress, I’ll fight to fix Metro!” Then the riders will shout, “We’re Metro riders and we approve this message!

Folks, these are all competent campaigns and this race is turning into one for the ages. It’s going to be a great three months until the end. Enjoy the ride!


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.


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 followthemoney.org, 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


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.


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.


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.