Md. Senate candidate says he’s more progressive, but also more bipartisan

A photo of Maryland Representative David Trone. (Courtesy, David Trone for Maryland via Canva)

The campaign to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin has been heating up in Maryland, with the two leading Democrats running for the seat both constantly sending out statements touting new endorsements.

So why is the candidate boasting the most primary endorsements — including all of the current Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives — also saying he’s not the “establishment” candidate?

Congressman David Trone, who represents Western Maryland and the northern portion of Montgomery County, has spent the fall and early winter racking up endorsements from various labor unions around Maryland, including the Maryland State Education Association, as well as other labor unions, including some based in Prince George’s County.

This week, Trone added House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, considered a contender for future Speaker of the House, to his list of endorsements.

In contrast, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has earned numerous endorsements from around the state of Maryland, including former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Gov. Wes Moore and Maryland’s soon-to-be senior Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

“We’ve never been the establishment candidate. We’re fighting the system. It’s rigged,” Trone said in an interview with WTOP. “It’s rigged by the PACs. It’s rigged by the lobbyists that keep electing the same people over and over and over.”

Despite a lack of support from most Democrats in Maryland, Trone’s multimillion dollar fortune, courtesy of a successful chain of liquor stores, has allowed him to spurn fundraising and flood airwaves and the internet with advertisements. It also makes it easy for his opponents to say he’s trying to “buy” his seat in the U.S. Senate.

But, Trone explains, it makes him more effective to not be dependent on donations from big corporations and lobbyists.

“Now, if they don’t want something for that, I’m a little bit surprised. I think they do expect something for that,” Trone said of the donations. “Most members have spent a lot of time making phone calls to get that money. And then they’ve got to execute to keep that money coming. My opponent is on that treadmill. I’m not on that treadmill.”

Trone argues that he, unlike his opponents, focused on “all important things that the voters really care about.”

“I’m on a treadmill of policy, policy, policy; addiction, mental health, criminal justice, education, the environment,” he added, touting some of the priorities that were mentioned in his stump speech.

And on those issues, Trone argues, he’s the most progressive candidate running.

“We’re going to have the whole progressive runway to ourselves,” Trone said of Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando’s decision to discontinue his campaign. “Angela is clearly to the right — she’s not very progressive whatsoever.”

However, recent scoring from good government groups like Common Ground over the last couple of years has concluded that the congressman is among the most bipartisan politicians in the country — a selling point, at least in his mind, to voters who tend not to obsess over party politics.

“I worked with senators all the time,” Trone said. “It’s an ongoing issue working to get the 60 votes because everything is 60. So if you don’t get 10 Republicans on board, you get absolutely nothing.”

“So last year, we got 26 bills passed — 26 on mental health and addiction alone. So that’s real progress,” he argued.

It’s also how Trone tries to differentiate himself from other members of the House, regardless of party.

“Voters are just sick and tired of Washington getting nothing accomplished. It’s just all folks in Washington seem to want to be on CNN, they want to be on MSNBC or FOX. And that’s how they judge success,” Trone told WTOP. “Success ought to be about what you get over the finish line to make lives better for Americans. And (if) we could do that and actually pull together for common goals, we’d be much better off as a country.”

With Maryland’s primary elections set for May 14, Trone has a long time to make that pitch to Democrats around the state, whether they’re laser-focused on politics or too busy with other things happening in life.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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