The Notebook knows many of you work, shop and play in the Maryland suburbs, as well as visit its rural western and Eastern Shore areas.
Our neighboring state has more than one interesting contest in its upcoming April 26 Democratic primary. Two of those contests will test whether this really is the year of the “outsider.”
First up, the race in suburban Montgomery County to fill the 8th Congressional District seat. Incumbent Chris Van Hollen is giving up the seat to run for the U.S. Senate.
Nine Democrats signed up to run in the 8th, a congressional district that’s centered in Montgomery County but snakes to the Pennsylvania line. The race has taken on a runaway spending aura that has focused the contest on three candidates. One in particular is multimillionaire David Trone, who is a principal owner of Total Wines & More.
Trone simply and unabashedly is trying to buy the race. He says he already has spent $5 million, after joining in January. Reporters covering the campaign say Trone could approach $10 million.
Still, Trone said on last Friday’s WAMU Politics Hour: “I am a huge, huge underdog.”
He told host Kojo Nnamdi that he’s an underdog because he’s less known to the general public. Trone largely disparaged candidate Kathleen Matthews as a former longtime TV anchor, running more on name recognition and less on her experience as a Marriott executive.
And Trone simply dismissed law professor and veteran activist Jamie Raskin, a respected state senator since 2007. Raskin’s community activism dates back to 1990 when he served on a Montgomery County Hate Crimes Commission.
Trone says he’d bring his business skills to Congress. But he’s not a political neophyte. He may be a first-time candidate, but he has been a major donor to national Democrats. And for his business interests, he acknowledges that he’s given freely to Republicans and Democrats to help his businesses in 21 different states.
Trone says such contributions show he can work across partisan aisles. He said on the radio show that donations buy “you a seat at the table.” But on air, he accused Washington Post reporter Bill Turque of misquoting him in a January article that had Trone saying, “I sign my checks to buy access.” Your Notebook is not sure of the difference between buying access and a seat at the table. (Turque, via email, said he stands by his story.)
■ The Maryland Democratic Senate campaign. The race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski has a different aura of money over experience.
Veteran state legislator and Congressman Van Hollen clearly is the “establishment” candidate. He has a long and varied list of supporters and endorsers across the state. He has a healthy campaign account and a progressive record in the House clearly in sync with Maryland Democrats.
But also running is Rep. Donna Edwards. She is giving up her 4th Congressional District seat to make the leap to the Senate. Edwards and Van Hollen are closely similar in political outlook. In a recent debate with Van Hollen on the Kojo show, Edwards bluntly said it is time for an African-American woman to win and to add diversity to the Senate. Edwards has cast herself as an outsider.
She said she’s qualified to be in the Senate and the Senate won’t change without electing people like herself over Van Hollen.
There are currently 20 female senators but no African-American woman, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Edwards badly trails Van Hollen in traditional fundraising and organizing and endorsements. But Edwards has one key player on her side, the national political fundraising group Emily’s List. Its “Women Vote” organization supports pro-choice female candidates.
Emily’s List has committed to spending $2.4 million on independent campaign advertising for Edwards. Without that money, Edwards would barely be heard in the crush of all the campaign ads in all the races now on radio and TV.
Van Hollen, of course, is pro-choice, too, but he is saddled with being a man. As Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner put it in an article about the race: “Emily’s List argues that its mission is to elect pro-choice Democratic women, regardless of who gets toppled along the way.”
The Post story also quoted Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who has endorsed Van Hollen. “I’m disappointed, like many other people, that Emily’s List has chosen to try to use its muscle to oppose a candidate who I think has represented Maryland really well,” Kopp says.
Interestingly, Van Hollen’s campaign manager is a former executive director of Emily’s List.
As for Sen. Mikulski, first elected to the Senate in 1987 with Emily’s List support, she is retiring after five terms. She so far has stayed out of the contest to succeed her.
■ Maryland’s 4th District. So what about the congressional seat Edwards is vacating?
It’s something of a donnybrook, too.
Former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown lost a humiliating race for governor to Republican Larry Hogan in 2014. He is trying to restart his political career in this Prince George’s County-centered election. But even with his name recognition, Brown faces stiff competition from former prosecutor Glenn Ivey and Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk, who is relatively unknown outside her district but has been endorsed by The Post.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.