Tag Archives: David Trone

Is This the Most Expensive Facebook Ad in MoCo Politics?

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate David Blair wants you to know that the Washington Post has endorsed him.  Wait, that doesn’t do it justice.  He really, REALLY wants you to know that.  Why do we say so?  Because he may have purchased the most expensive Facebook ad in the history of MoCo politics to publicize it.

Most Facebook ads from state and local candidates cost less than a hundred bucks and run for a few days.  The more you pay, the bigger the audience, but there is considerable variability in exposure and targeting.  Still, a $50 ad on something good is a cheap way to get your name out there.  If every exposure costs two cents (a VERY rough guesstimate with a lot of spread), that fifty bucks could get you on 2,500 feeds and draw a few dozen interactions.

The exact stats on ad cost and engagements are available only to the advertisers.  But Facebook has a political ad tracker that reports stats in ballpark ranges.  Here’s a report of an ad that Council Member George Leventhal is running on his hilarious Avengers-themed campaign video.  He spent up to $100 on the ad and it showed up on 5,000-10,000 feeds.  (The actual people count will be less because some will have seen it more than once.)  This is a very typical ad in MoCo politics.

Now here is the ad Blair is running on his Post endorsement.  The report indicates that he spent between $10,000 and $50,000 and it showed up on more than a million feeds.

By the standards of MoCo politics, that’s unheard of.  Even David Trone rarely spends more than $1,000 on his Facebook ads.  We know of one ad – on men’s mental health – on which Trone spent between $1,000 and $5,000, receiving between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions.

So if you live in MoCo and have a Facebook account, we bet you know that David Blair has been endorsed by the Washington Post.  And if you didn’t, well… you need to log in!

Disclosure: Your author supports Roger Berliner and spends way too much time on Facebook.

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Self-Financing by MoCo Candidates

By Adam Pagnucco.

Businessman David Blair is being criticized for contributing $1.9 million to his campaign for County Executive.  Council Member Marc Elrich, who is also running for Executive, told the Post, “David Blair can use money to commission polls and then create an image of himself based on poll results… We’ve had enough of buying images and elections.”  That leads us to a question.

How have other big self-funders done in MoCo?

The chart below shows all MoCo-based candidates since the 2006 cycle who have self-financed at least $200,000 in an election.

Notice something?  Only one of these folks won the election in which they self-financed at least $200,000: Congressman John Delaney.

Why did so many of these self-funders lose?  Here are a few reasons applying to various races.

They ran in the wrong district.

This might be the biggest reason Total Wine co-owner David Trone lost the Congressional District 8 race despite massively outspending the winner, Jamie Raskin.  The odds were long that CD8, with its dark blue enclaves of Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring, Kensington and Chevy Chase, would elect an alcohol salesman over a progressive, brainy and likeable college professor.  Trone is much better off in CD6 with its more moderate voters.  Similarly, real estate developer Josh Rales was no match for long-time Congressman Ben Cardin and former Congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume in a statewide U.S. Senate primary.

They challenged an incumbent.

Dana Beyer and Amie Hoeber had uphill battles running against incumbents.  Hoeber’s entry on this list deserves an asterisk because her committee funding did not include $3.8 million in outside spending by her husband.

Their message wasn’t great.

CD8 candidate Kathleen Matthews had a very generic message primarily targeted at women.  District 20 House candidate Jonathan Shurberg’s message was indistinguishable from the other candidates in his race, some of whom were endorsed by Raskin and had the Apple Ballot.  District 19 Senator Mike Lenett ran one of the most negative campaigns in MoCo history against the man who went on to defeat him, Delegate Roger Manno.  Lenett’s Holocaust mailer was a killer mistake in the last days of the race.

They motivated the other side.

One veteran of Raskin’s congressional campaign told us, “We had a motto.  You can outspend us but you will not outwork us!”  Raskin’s door-knockers were dwarfed by Trone’s army but they were well-trained and highly motivated on his behalf.  (This was evident by their comparative performances at your author’s door!)  In the end, true-believer volunteers proved more effective than more numerous hirelings.

Delaney was the exception because he ran in a district that fit a center-left businessman, his main Democratic opponent took the election for granted, Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett was on his last legs and the district was gerrymandered to elect a Democrat.  But there was more: in addition to his self-funding, Delaney raised $2 million in outside money during his first win in 2012.  Most of his fundraising in his next two wins came from others and not himself.

There is no question that self-financing capacity is an advantage.  But little in MoCo’s recent political history supports the notion that elections here can be outright bought.  If Blair wins, it won’t just be because of money.  As one of the wisest MoCo election observers we know told us recently, “You know, the reason self-funders usually lose is because they have a crappy (or no) message.  But when they have a concise message… look out!”

Disclosure: The Executive candidate we are supporting, Roger Berliner, is not self-funding his race.  If he did that, his wife would kill him!

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Are Republicans Trying to Help Aruna Miller?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Much has been said about the Maryland Republican Party sending out racist mailers targeting Congressional District 6 candidate Aruna Miller.  The standard interpretation of this seems to be that the GOP sees Miller as a strong candidate and is trying to keep her out of the general election.  Indeed, the Washington Post editorial board made that argument.  But what if the Republicans are actually trying to help Miller instead?

The classic example of intervention in an opposing party’s primary is Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s promotion of conservative GOP Representative and eventual opponent Todd Akin.  McCaskill spent $1.7 million on ads accusing Akin of being “too conservative” during his GOP primary, helping boost him past the rest of the field.  And that’s not all – when Akin pulled a successful TV ad in favor of one that flopped, McCaskill schemed to have her pollster contact Akin’s campaign to persuade him to re-run the high-performing ad.  Once Akin won his primary, McCaskill exploited his weaknesses to finish him off and get reelected.

Two “anti-Akin” ads by McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Why do we bring this up?  Some of the people who received the GOP mailers were female Democrats, including Miller herself.  A few took to Facebook and Twitter to complain about it.  And if they didn’t get them directly, they may have read about them in publications like the Washington Post, Bethesda Magazine and India West.  How do you think they are going to react when they see a female Democratic candidate getting bashed in racist mail sent by Republicans?  They are going to rally to Miller, of course, and that’s what happened on social media.  Maybe that’s the point.

Miller uses GOP racism to motivate her supporters.

Aruna Miller is doing really well in this campaign.  She is raising lots of money, doing well at forums, attracting great endorsements from the Sierra Club and the teachers and is the most prominent woman running in a primary electorate that is roughly 60% female.  But look at this race from the standpoint of the GOP.  They know David Trone won an absolute majority of the vote in rural Frederick and Carroll Counties in the CD8 primary – the kind of areas that Republicans need to dominate in the sixth district.  They know Trone could spend $10 million in a general election, something no other Democrat can do, and that would free up national Democratic money to go to other Congressional districts around the country.  Most of all, Trone looks more like incumbent Congressman John Delaney than any other candidate – a center-left businessman who says he has created thousands of jobs.  The GOP knows that kind of candidate can win in this district.  Why would they want another one like Delaney?  And if they don’t, why not help a rival win?

Maybe we’re reading too much into this but we don’t think the GOP is stupid.  This kind of tactic can work.  Just ask Claire McCaskill!

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Trone Donations Continue to Raise Eyebrows


Apparently, David Trone can’t decide who to support for Montgomery County Council District 1. He has given money to both Andrew Friedson and Ana Sol Gutierrez. I guess he likes Andrew more since he got $750 as compared to just $150 for Ana. Or did he give to Ana to help her qualify for matching funds in order to help Andrew?

Meanwhile, his company, Total Wine, is donating to Maryland Republicans even after this became an issue in the 2016 congressional primary campaign. Total Wine donated $1000 in early 2017 to the Pat McDonough Leadership Team. McDonough (D-7) represents Baltimore and Harford Counties and is running for Baltimore County Executive.

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Blair Goes on TV

By Adam Pagnucco.

Businessman David Blair is the first County Executive candidate to go on TV.  Below, we print page one of his contract with WUSA (CBS Channel 9) for the week of March 6-12.  Blair chose to run three spots on morning news show Great Day Washington and three spots on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a combined cost of $5,070.  We have seen no evidence from Federal Communications Commission filings that any other local candidates have gone on TV yet other than Congressional candidate David Trone, who has purchased time on radio, WDVM-TV in Hagerstown and Univision.

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Backlash Builds Against Baker Endorsement of Trone

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is experiencing a rapid backlash against his endorsement of wealthy businessman David Trone in his bid for the Democratic nomination for the Sixth Congressional District.

Baker announced his support for Trone two days ago. Today, the Washington Post reported that Trone, his family members and company have donated a total of $39,000 to Baker’s gubernatorial campaign. My own quick scan of Rushern Baker’s latest campaign finance filing revealed the following donations:

David Trone, $6000, 10/5/17;
Julia Trone, $2000, 11/16/17;
June Trone, $6000, 10/5/17;
Michelle Trone, $6000, 11/5/17;
Natalie Trone, $2000, 11/16/17;
Natalie Trone, $3000, 11/16/17;
Robert Trone, $2000, 11/16/17;
Anna-Marie Parisi-Trone, $6000, 11/16/17;
Anna-Marie Parisi-Trone, $6000, 11/16/17.

While David, June, and Robert Trone are described as affiliated with Total Wine, Natalie Trone is listed as a student and Michelle Trone with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). All of the donations were made in October or November of last year.

Problems for Baker

There is certainly no proof of pay-to-play or corruption. Indeed, Baker has been a welcome breath of fresh air on that front in Prince George’s after the disastrous Johnson years. However, Baker’s decision to endorse in a race outside of Prince George’s has raised eyebrows.

In particular, I heard that senior women in the General Assembly are especially annoyed at Baker’s decision to endorse in the race when there was an experienced, talented and respected female legislator, Del. Aruna Miller, in the race. Baker’s wading into the race surprised many, as the Sixth does not overlap with Prince George’s.

Today, that frustration emerged more publicly in the form of a wave of endorsements of Miller’s campaign by her colleagues, especially many senior women. Miller’s campaign issued a press release (see below) touting support from:

Speaker Michael Busch,
Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones,
Chair Emerita Sheila Hixson,
Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh,
Environment and Transportation Committee Chair Kumar Barve, Ways and Means Committee Chair Anne Kaiser,
Health and Government Committee Chair Shane Pendergrass, Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Vallario,
Judiciary Committee Vice-Chair Kathleen Dumais,
Appropriations Committee Vice-Chair Tawanna Gaines,
Women’s Caucus Chair Ariana Kelly

It will be interesting to see if this backlash impedes Baker’s efforts to reach further outside the County. Similarly, I’m curious to see if Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, a strong Baker supporter, endorses a candidate in the Sixth District. Unlike Baker, Leggett has long had constituents in the Sixth.

Problems for Trone

Baker’s endorsement has also revived talk of Trone’s use of his wealth. Two years ago, Trone told the press bluntly, “I sign my checks to buy access.” Indeed, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s lawyers cited this statement in their brief appealing McDonnell’s corruption conviction. County Councilmember George Leventhal also needled Trone regarding his gaffe.

Now, as Michael Kinsley once said, a gaffe is simply when a politician speaks the truth out loud. Trone was forthright and honest on this point, in a manner similar to Donald Trump in presidential bid. But the similarities to Trump and the current concerns regarding the corruption of American politics are hardly likely to endear him to Democratic primary voters.

Aruna Miller for Congress Press Release by David Lublin on Scribd

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Trone Proposes Spending $100 Billion on the Opioid Epidemic

David Trone, a candidate in the Sixth Congressional District, has released a detailed plan for combating the opioid epidemic. Despite being couched in highly politicized language, this document, shown below, contains several good ideas. Yet, the proposal authored by a businessman is missing one key factor: any mention of how to pay for this very expensive plan.

It’s also a nice example of how we expect candidates to come up with detailed plans that have little relation to the policy process. Just like when Obama and Clinton dueled over their health care plans in 2008, Congress would promptly put it into the shredder.

No junior representative gets to take the lead on a major issue. Who even knows if Trone will get appointed, or is even interested in being appointed, to the committee that addresses health policy? But it’s nonetheless very useful because it tells us where he stands and the types of measures he would like to support.

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Lost in Potomac: Stuart Rothenberg Eviscerates the Trone Campaign

National Political Pundit Stuart Rothenberg wrote a devastating account of his meeting David Trone:

Maryland Democrat David Trone, who is running for Congress in the 6th Congressional District, came to my Potomac community to talk about his candidacy – and he brought plenty of wine for residents to sample while they chatted with neighbors before turning their attention to the candidate. . . .

What made all the politicking odd is that my community is not in the 6th District but rather in the 8th, currently represented by Democrat Jamie Raskin, who beat Trone in the Democratic primary last year. In other words, Trone touted his credentials, talked about his views and supplied wine to a roomful of people who could not vote for him next year.

Oops.

But it gets even worse:

[My] second question involved my doubts that he is suited to being a lowly freshman who would have little influence. I noted his self-funding and his previous race, as well as the fact that he had flirted with running for county executive before deciding on a second race for Congress. I also noted that his earlier comments about leadership, about the county government and about his experiences in the private sector suggested he would be more effective in an executive position.

Trone seemed to dislike the question. He turned away from me and addressed others in the audience, insisting that his wealth was an asset not a liability, emphasizing that he would be politically independent, and promising that he could bring change. He was passionate, certainly, but he didn’t address my concerns about his temperament, district-shopping and suitability for a legislative office.

Trone took another question but suddenly had to run. He never stressed his Democratic label, instead embracing the “no labels” movement in response to a question and talking about his pro-business bent.

Running as the “no labels” candidate in a Democratic primary gives the impression that he thinks he has it sewn up. No voter likes being taken for granted or having his questions given the “talk to the hand” treatment–something you would think someone who runs a business with excellent customer service would know.

Rothenberg concluded his analysis with some sage advice for Trone:

His odds will improve if he campaigns among voters who actually live in the district where he is running.

I’d be glad I owned a liquor store after reading this piece.

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Delaney Dominoes

By Adam Pagnucco.

From the perspective of political blogging (which we all know matters most!), Congressman John Delaney is the greatest Maryland politician of all time.  That’s not because of anything he has done in Congress.  (No one does anything in Congress these days!)  It’s because his decision-making has affected the races for Governor, Congress District 6, County Executive, County Council and several State Senate and House of Delegates seats.  This is an enormous bonanza for political junkies and will keep us VERY busy.  We love you, John Delaney!

Here’s a quick and dirty take on how the Delaney Dominoes are falling.

Governor

None of the Democratic candidates for Governor fit Delaney’s ideological center-left positioning.  Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who can claim that his jurisdiction has not increased either property or income taxes in twenty-five years, might come closest.  But the biggest impact of Delaney’s absence may be geographic.  With the Congressman out and former Attorney General Doug Gansler not showing signs of serious activity, Senator Rich Madaleno might be the only MoCo candidate in the race.  That’s a big deal.  If Madaleno consolidates MoCo while three African American candidates run hard in the City and Prince George’s, this race becomes very unpredictable.  (Disclosure: your author has done work for Madaleno.)

Congress District 6

Total Wine co-owner David Trone has been interviewing elected officials, activists, operatives and other local players for months as he figures out his options.  Our hunch is that he will see Delaney’s congressional district as his best play and run there.  He will join Delegates Bill Frick and Aruna Miller, Senator Roger Manno and former Democratic nominee Andrew Duck on the Democratic side.  The Republicans should have a vigorous primary too as they have a real shot at the open seat.

County Executive

If Trone runs for Congress, that will leave three term-limited Council Members – Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal – as the only Democrats running for Executive at this moment.  But given the fact that most Democrats voted for term limits and anti-tax sentiment continues to linger, it’s hard to believe that a non-Council Member will not get in.  Trone’s absence creates a void that could very well get filled.

County Council

County Council candidates will all sigh in relief if Trone runs for Congress.  That’s because there have been rumors of a Trone Slate for months in which Trone would deposit his own money in a slate account to be drawn on by allied council candidates.  With that possibility off the table, the at-large candidates are on their own.   Since most are in public financing, it’s unlikely that very many of them will accumulate large financial advantages of 3-to-1 to 4-to-1 over their nearest rivals.  That makes for very competitive races in District 1 and at-large.

State Legislative Districts

If Miller, Frick and Manno stay in the race for Congress until the end, that means there will be open seats in Districts 15, 16 and 19.  In District 15, the recent custom has been for the incumbents to pick a new candidate to fill out their slate.  (That is a big reason why Miller originally won her seat in 2010.)  The question is whether any new candidate merits such a selection.  A District 16 open seat race is like an Italian Sunday dinner: everyone shows up.  An open seat in 2010 attracted thirteen candidates and an open seat in 2014 attracted eight candidates.  There will be no rest for Delegates Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman!  Manno’s Senate seat will draw the interest of at least one Delegate, thereby creating at least one House opening.  There are already three non-incumbents who have filed for the District 19 House seats with more probably on the way.

Add the above to actual or possible races in Council District 3, Legislative District 17 (House and maybe Senate), Legislative District 18 (House and Senate), Legislative District 20 (maybe House) and Legislative District 39 (House) and that makes 2018 the most politically active year in MoCo in decades.  Enjoy folks, and remember to thank John Delaney the next time you see him!

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Could Anyone Stop David Trone in CD6?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The future plans of Congressman John Delaney remain unclear, but that has not stopped some potential candidates from expressing interest in his seat.  Two have filed paperwork to start raising money – Delegates Bill Frick (D-16) and Aruna Miller (D-15).  It’s time to examine what a potential open seat race in Congressional District 6 might look like.

Let’s begin by asking the obvious question: could anyone stop David Trone?

Trone, a co-owner of Total Wine and second-place finisher in the 2016 CD8 Democratic primary, is known to be looking at races for both Montgomery County Executive and CD6.  Trone shares certain characteristics with Delaney: both are successful, center-left businessmen who live in Potomac and have been active political contributors at the national level before running for office.  Delaney’s 25-point victory in 2012 over establishment favorite Senator Rob Garagiola (D-15) is no doubt encouraging to Trone because it provides a model for his own potential candidacy.  So far, five Montgomery County state legislators – Frick, Miller, Delegates Kirill Reznik (D-19) and Andrew Platt (D-17) and Senator Roger Manno (D-19) – have told the Sun that they would consider running in CD6.  There may be others as well as several Republicans.  But let’s start with the MoCo Five.  How do they compare to Trone?

Money

This is the elephant in the room.  Trone set a record for a self-funding candidate for Congress last year.  Here is how his potential MoCo rivals stack up to him in lifetime campaign receipts.

Money doesn’t make Trone invincible.  Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20) raised $2 million in the CD8 primary, was outspent by Trone by more than 6-1 and still defeated him by 7 points.  But money is a big advantage for Trone and none of these MoCo legislators has proven that they can raise anywhere near as much money as Raskin.

Geography

Unlike Trone, the five MoCo legislators represent legislative districts and presumably have relationships with their constituents.  Here is the number of Democratic voters in the portions of their districts that overlapped with CD6 during the last mid-term primary, which occurred in 2014.

None of these legislators represents a dominant share of CD6’s Democratic electorate.  Two of them – Miller (20%) and Reznik (16%) – represent a larger share of CD6 than Raskin did of CD8 (14%).  But Raskin’s in-district supporters were intensely invested in him and he was able to reach into other districts through many surrogates.  These legislators would have to do something similar in order to acquire an advantage over the others.

Now, what of the 43% of CD6 Democratic voters who do not live in any of these districts?  Aside from the handful who reside in four precincts in Legislative District 14, they live in the district’s four Western Maryland counties.  In the CD8 primary, Trone won absolute majorities of the vote in both Carroll and Frederick Counties.  Trone also won pluralities in Damascus, Gaithersburg, Glenmont/Norbeck, Potomac and Rockville.  The implication is clear: if each of these legislators gets in and holds most of their home territory, Trone could still win by running up big margins in Western Maryland and picking up pockets of votes in UpCounty MoCo.  Let’s remember that MANY of these residents were exposed to Trone’s millions of dollars in broadcast TV commercials last year.

Electoral Experience

Most of Trone’s potential rivals have not won an intense, hard-fought election like last year’s race in CD8.  Frick and Reznik were originally appointed to their seats.  Miller was inducted onto the District 15 incumbents’ slate in 2010 prior to winning an open Delegate seat.  The exception is Manno, who withstood some of the most depraved political attacks in recent MoCo history when he took out incumbent Senator Mike Lenett (D-19).  But CD6 is much larger than D19 and the potential reach of Manno’s prodigious door knocking – his favorite campaign tactic – is in question.

And then there is Trone himself.  After three months of all-out campaigning, Trone eclipsed a field of initially better-known candidates to finish on the brink of victory.  Our interview with Trone last year is instructive.  As a self-made man, Trone has a swagger that is off-putting to some who meet him.  But he has also endured significant tragedy and failure in his life that was key to his later triumphs.  Trone has an almost preternatural ability to reflect, learn and adapt.  His cover picture on Twitter even advises visitors to “Try Things… Get Comfortable with Failure.”

The thought of a wiser, more experienced and more strategic Trone should inspire dread in potential opponents.

And yet, Trone can be beaten.  Let’s look at the man who did it.  Jamie Raskin started out as one of MoCo’s best-ever challengers when he defeated twenty-year incumbent District 20 Senator Ida Ruben.  He spent the next ten years building progressive networks at both the national and local levels.  The former helped him raise millions of dollars; the latter gave him a grass-roots army that has been seldom seen in this county.  No prospective CD6 candidate checks all those boxes.

It will take two things to stop Trone if he runs for an open seat in CD6.  First, most of the MoCo legislators mentioned in the Sun would have to not run, thereby giving the remaining candidates room for electoral growth.  And second, one of Trone’s rivals would have to run the race of his or her life, far exceeding previous performances.

Raskin proved that it can be done.  But can it be done again?

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