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Trone’s wealth looms over Maryland Senate primary

Alsobrooks says Democratic rival would not spend as much if she were not ‘formidable’

Democratic Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks claps with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen as local officials speak during her “All in for Angela” campaign event at McGinty’s Public House restaurant in Silver Spring, Md., on April 24.
Democratic Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks claps with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen as local officials speak during her “All in for Angela” campaign event at McGinty’s Public House restaurant in Silver Spring, Md., on April 24. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Angela Alsobrooks is testing how far money can go in a Senate race.

“Ask yourself: Would you spend $47 million trying to fight somebody who you didn’t think was a formidable candidate?” the Democrat asked supporters at a get-out-the-vote event last week at a bar here, referencing what she says her opponent, Rep. David Trone, had already spent.

Backed by much of the party’s leadership in the state, Alsobrooks is hoping her supporters can counteract Trone’s seemingly omnipresent ads with early voting in the May 14 primary beginning Thursday.

They are vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, which wasn’t supposed to be competitive in November. But the surprise decision in February by Republican Larry Hogan, a two-term former governor, to run changed that. Now, Democrats hope his Senate campaign will follow the trajectory of other former governors who were unable to translate previous statewide success into seats in the Senate, like Montana’s Steve Bullock or Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen. 

Republicans view Hogan as a top recruit this cycle. The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a coordinated ad buy with his campaign last month. Early polls showed Hogan leading either Trone or Alsobrooks in a general election, but both Democrats say they are the better candidate to defeat him and that the state’s voters won’t vote for a Republican if it gives the party a chance to take control of the Senate. 

“Marylanders know that a vote for Republican Larry Hogan is a vote to turn the Senate over to MAGA Republicans so they can pass a national abortion ban and push forward Republicans’ extreme policies. That’s a disqualifying agenda for Maryland voters,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Amanda Sherman Baity said in a statement. 

Democrats now effectively hold a 51-49 majority, but one of those seats in West Virginia is now rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales after Sen. Joe Manchin III’s decision not to run again. That makes every seat on the ballot potentially a majority maker.

Hogan, who is expected to win the Republican primary, will face either Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s County executive who would be Maryland’s first Black woman in the Senate, or Trone, a three-term House member who co-founded Total Wine & More and has self-funded all his campaigns.

Trone is unapologetic about how he’s financing his run and argues that Democrats who didn’t expect Maryland to be part of the battleground this cycle should be happy to have him take care of the race.

“I obviously have more resources and Chuck Schumer’s got a tough map. And if anyone thinks he’s got a spare $50 million, they didn’t ask Chuck,” Trone said in an interview at a coffee shop in Silver Spring last week after meeting with representatives of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. He ticked off states like Ohio and Pennsylvania where Senate Democrats are defending incumbents this year.

‘Spend what it takes’

Trone contributed $42 million to his campaign as of the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. Updated fundraising numbers are due to the FEC on Thursday. He didn’t give a maximum amount of money he would give to his campaign if he goes until the general election.

“We’re going to spend what it takes to win,” Trone said. “I didn’t come this far to lose.”

Trone says being elected a senator would give him greater opportunities to advance legislation tied to the priorities he’s had in the House, such as mental health and addiction, as well as other issues like gun control. An appropriator, Trone notes he was one of the top House Democrats bringing federal dollars back to the 6th District. 

Alsobrooks argues that polling by her campaign shows she has kept pace with Trone despite his investment in the race, although other polls have shown Trone with more of a lead. 

“Turns out you can’t buy a race,” she said in an interview. “We still are in a tie at the moment we started communicating with the public. I think this is a sophisticated electorate, and I think they understood what they were seeing with the money and they took the time to look into the issues, to come to candidate forums, to come to various places so they could learn about me. And that’s very encouraging.”

Alsobrooks has emphasized increasing economic opportunity and, like Trone, has touted work she’s done as county executive to bring federal dollars to Prince George’s County. 

Alsobrooks had raised $7.3 million and had $3.2 million on hand as of March 31, her FEC disclosures show. 

Alsobrooks’ personal financial disclosure filed in September, which doesn’t have to include some assets such as her primary home, showed a net worth of $90,000 to $265,000. 

Trone’s assets covered more than 10 pages in his 2022 disclosure report, and his income from them that year alone was at least $22.7 million but could have been several times that. Just three of his assets — wine and liquor store chains in New Jersey, New York and Texas — were reported to have generated at least $5 million in income each, while six others were listed as paying between $1 million and $5 million.

Who’s backing who

While the DSCC hasn’t weighed in on the primary race, both Trone and Alsobrooks have touted their supporters. The two have also sought to draw comparisons between their backers, with both touting support from those who have worked with their opponent.

Alsobrooks has appeared with Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen and is endorsed by all but one of the Democrats in the state’s House delegation. She launched her own ads last week featuring Van Hollen, Gov. Wes Moore, Rep. Jamie Raskin and others.

“All of the people who know both of us have chosen to endorse me: the governor, the senator, the congressmen, the local officials. … I think it’s important. I think it says something,” Alsobrooks said in an interview. 

Trone has endorsements from officials in Prince George’s County, some of whom he featured in a recent ad praising Trone’s track record in Congress, as well as Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the state attorney general, Anthony G. Brown, a former House member. He also was endorsed by several House colleagues from outside the state, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. 

Trone brushed off how the state’s top elected officials backed Alsobrooks over him.

“I’m not out of Annapolis. They’re all creatures of Annapolis. I’m a creature of America,” he said. 

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