Democratic Senate candidates share policy prescriptions for fighting climate change in Maryland

Climate change, pollution and their effects on the Chesapeake Bay were the focus of a candidate forum for Maryland's open senate seat, WTOP's Luke Lukert reports.

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

The leading Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate on Tuesday pledged to aggressively address climate change and work to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

David Trone and Angela Alsobrooks, the two leading democratic 2024 candidates for Maryland's open U.S. Senate seat. (Courtesy David Trone for Maryland and Angela Alsobrooks for Maryland via Canva)

Speaking separately at a candidate forum at Goucher College, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) largely agreed on prescriptions for combating the climate crisis — as well as for protecting eroding voting rights, democracy and policies to help students and recent college graduates.

But as has been the case throughout the hard-fought primary campaign, the differences were largely stylistic, driven by their different and professional life experiences.

The forum was sponsored by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and co-sponsored by the Maryland League of Women Voters, Baltimore Green Space, Blue Water Baltimore, Mid Atlantic Audubon, Indivisible HoCoMd — and Maryland Matters. Trone and Alsobrooks were asked questions about climate and the environment, preserving democracy, and the concerns of college students and recent college graduates.

Candidates who are drawing at least 15% of the vote in recent polling on the Senate race were invited to attend and speak individually. Trone and Alsobrooks accepted; former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declined the invitation.

Trone said that other policy debates pale in comparison to the climate conversation.

“The issue we’re talking about tonight is the most important we can talk about, bar none,” he said.

Alsobrooks said communities across Maryland are already dealing with the threats of climate change every day.

“The threat against our climate is not a future threat — it’s an existential threat for all of our families and children,” she said.

Alsobrooks and Trone both said they would work to build on programs in the Inflation Reduction Act, which is providing hundreds of billions of dollars for an array of climate initiatives. They pledged to work to make electric vehicles more affordable and accessible, and said they would look to maximize funding for Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction programs.

Trone said that, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he has already supported extra Bay funding, while Alsobrooks said one of her concerns is that the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act are often elusive to — or completely unknown to — poorer, communities of color.

“The problem is, the average person doesn’t know how to access these incentives,” she said.

Alsobrooks talked about some of the environmental initiatives she has pursued as county executive, including spending almost $1 billion in stormwater management — which benefits the rivers and streams that run into the Chesapeake Bay, she noted — and instituting composting for Prince George’s residents. Alsobrooks said “it took patience and education” to get residents to embrace composting, but now it’s a popular program.

“You don’t know the joy I feel seeing those big plastic [composting] bins after being cursed out in the grocery store,” she said.

WTOP's Luke Lukert reports that two of the leading Senate candidates in Maryland fielded questions from students and others at a forum Tuesday.

Trone has almost exclusively self-funded his campaign, and he has used that fact to assert that he’ll be far more independent than opponents who rely on donations from polluters and other special interests to fuel their races.

“When Exxon writes a check — anyone think Exxon is a charity?” he asked.

Speaking about Bay health, clean water and agricultural runoff, Trone described growing up on a 200-acre chicken and hog farm that generated 13 tons of chicken manure a day, at a time before there were tough environmental regulations.

“Trust me, we did not do it right,” he conceded. “That often ended up in the wrong place.”

Almost 200 people attended the forum in person and another 300 watched the livestream, according to Maryland LCV. A video of the event can be watched here.

Both candidates had choice words for Republican extremists in Congress.

Asked how she would cope with climate deniers in the Senate and Republicans who will seek to undo President Biden’s environmental initiatives, Alsobrooks noted that as county executive she was able to work with Hogan when he was governor to deliver for Prince George’s County, even though they frequently disagreed on issues.

But she said that when she hears policymakers deny climate change, “I don’t know what Twilight Zone they’re on.”

Trone similarly described how he has methodically reached out to find common ground with Republican colleagues in Congress, and said he’ll bring that same strategy to the Senate. But he confessed that there’s a cadre of House Republicans that he refuses to deal with, because, he said, “they’re bats— crazy.”

Coincidentally, the forum took place on the day that a new poll on the Senate race, conducted by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, appeared in The Baltimore Banner. The poll showed Trone with a 9-point lead over Alsobrooks in the primary, with both Democrats narrowly trailing Hogan in a hypothetical general election matchup — though Hogan’s lead over Trone is within the survey’s margin of error.

The poll of 800 registered registered voters was taken March 19-24 and had a 3.5-point margin of error. The poll of the subset of 408 likely Democratic primary voters had a 4.9-point error margin.

The primary poll showed Trone leading Alsobrooks 42% to 33%. In the general election matchups, Hogan topped Alsobrooks 44% to 40%, while the former governor led Trone 43% to 42%.

“We’ve been hard at work connecting with voters across Maryland, and I’m thrilled to see that our message is resonating throughout the state,” Trone said in a statement Tuesday.

In the primary, the two Democrats continue to spotlight high-profile endorsements both within the state and from elsewhere. Alsobrooks’ latest endorsement comes from U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), a colleague of Trone’s who at age 27 is the youngest member of the House and is also a full-throated progressive. The two appeared together in a minute-long video.

“I’m supporting Angela for U.S. Senate because she’s spent her career truly listening to people and coming up with innovative solutions to benefit the community,” Frost said. “The people closest to the problem are often closest to the solution.”

Trone this week picked up endorsements from the International Longshoremen Association Baltimore District Council, along with Locals 333 and 953, which seems especially relevant in the wake of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge last week. These unions represent steamship clerks, weighers, billing clerks, timekeepers, industrial workers, and others in the Port of Baltimore.

“Mr. Trone is a successful businessman who understands the impact the Port of Baltimore has on the State of Maryland,” said Scott Cowan, Local 333 president and international vice president of the International Longshoremen Association. “Now more than ever, our Port and the workers who earn their living there need a champion in the Senate. Mr. Trone will be an asset to our workers and to trade as a whole as a U.S. senator.”

Trone also picked up the endorsement Tuesday of a prominent Prince George’s County politician, Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, who is, like Trone, a self-made multimillionaire. Adams hailed Trone’s “entrepreneurial mindset and long-term progressive vision for the future.”

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