David Trone announces run for Congress

David Trone, the multimillionaire businessman who blasted airwaves with political advertising in his campaign for Congress last year, announced Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for the House seat to be left open by Rep. John Delaney.

Trone, a Potomac man who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District last year, has become a well-known figure in Maryland politics after spending millions on advertising in that race. His decision to run again will almost certainly change the political dynamic in 6th Congressional District as well.

A co-owner of national liquor retailer Total Wine & More, Trone said in a video announcing his candidacy that he intends to follow Delaney’s approach to the job. The Democratic incumbent, a centrist, announced last week that he will run for president, setting up what is likely to one of Maryland’s most closely watched political contests next year.

“With your help, I’ll pick right up where John leaves off,” Trone says in the video. “I’ll fight President Trump and Congress’s attempts to gut health care, women’s rights, education, the environment and Social Security.”

In terms of policies, Trone said he would fight for increased funding for the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health — an idea that has won bipartisan support in recent years. He said he would push for transportation projects in Maryland, such as the proposed Purple Line, and would “protect” struggling farms.

Trone’s entrance drew the attention of Delaney. The incumbent did not endorse Trone, but he also has not publicly commented on any of the other candidates in the mix.

“I'm glad my good friend David has such a deep commitment to both public service and to bringing his business experience to the political debate,” Delaney said in a statement.

Two other Democrats have already started to raise money for the 6th District contest, Maryland House Majority Leader C. William "Bill" Frick and Del. Aruna Miller. Several others, Democrats and Republicans, have expressed interest in recent weeks as rumors swirled about Delaney’s future.

Trone, 61, was also said to be mulling a run for Montgomery County executive, and so his decision to campaign for Congress instead gives breathing room to other candidates in that field — particularly in the race for cash.

Trone holds at least $17 million in assets, and earned between $13.7 million and $27.4 million, according to a financial disclosure statement he filed last year. He declined to raise funds for his 2016 campaign, and invested more than $13 million of his own money — running television and radio ads in both Washington and Baltimore.

He lost the Democratic primary to Rep. Jamie Raskin, who went on to win the general election in that heavily Democratic congressional district. Another contender in that race, businesswoman Kathleen Matthews, is now the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party. Most observers believe Trone and Matthews were competing for the same voters, while Raskin appealed more to the liberal wing of the party.

Since losing, Trone has maintained a regular presence at Democratic functions. He turned up in Philadelphia last year at the Democratic convention and hobnobbed with Maryland officials at their daily breakfast.

In a subtle shift from his previous campaign, Trone said in the video that he will not take money from lobbyists or political action committees. That suggests he may now be willing to raise money from individual donors — a change that could help him mitigate complaints from opponents that he is attempting to buy the seat.

On the other hand, Trone will face criticism from opponents for not living in the 6th District. But that will probably not present a major challenge given that Delaney, like Trone, lives in the 8th District.

Trone has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates over the years.

Born in Cheverly and raised in Pennsylvania, Trone has built a business he said employs some 6,000 workers in 172 stores across the country, including 500 people at its headquarters in Bethesda. In the video, Trone touts his business record and hints at his philanthropy, which includes donations to the ACLU and Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County.

“Fighting to protect things isn’t enough. Life’s purpose is to make things better,” Trone said. “I’d like to think I did that in business — making things better for over 6,000 teammates, and better for people who need a helping hand in our communities.”

The 6th District includes portions of Montgomery and Frederick counties as well as Western Maryland.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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