Md. Democrats' whisper campaign against David Trone 'shameful,' 'stupid'

This summer businessman and philanthropist David Trone won a hard-fought Democratic primary, defeating a crowded field of talented candidates to become the party’s nominee in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Yet, even as the Democratic Party nationally unites to flip seats red-to-blue in order to win back Congress, local Democratic insiders have reportedly begun a whisper campaign about Mr. Trone’s recent diagnosis and treatment for cancer. This is shameful. It’s also stupid.

For Democrats to reclaim the House, the party must not only gain ground across the country but also hold the seats it has. Mr. Trone currently faces Republican Amie Hoeber in a competitive district that has historically teetered and required former Congressman John Delaney to spend millions to prevail in his races.

Mr. Trone is doing his part to win, focusing on issues like an accelerating opioid crisis, rising medical bills forcing families into bankruptcy and high-potential economies in cities like Frederick, Hagerstown and Cumberland. He has run a campaign of ideas and has the clear edge over Ms. Hoeber in that department and many others, and he has emerged as a rare voice of vision and reason at a time when Congress needs many more of those. When he bravely disclosed his diagnosis, he also responsibly released public assurances by his doctors at Johns Hopkins of an excellent prognosis and his unimpeded ability to campaign and serve in Congress for years to come.

It was the same kind of good news-bad news that Gov. Larry Hogan shared early in his tenure. But rather than follow the humane and savvy example of Republicans who rallied to his side when Governor Hogan announced he had cancer and intended to fight it, Democratic insiders can’t seem to help themselves.

Ms. Hoeber, who has shrewdly declined to engage in the talk herself, simply directs news outlets to speculation by Democrats meant to undercut Mr. Trone. And her GOP allies have seized the narrative and highlighted party infighting.

For anyone wondering why candidates hesitate to divulge the details of a medical illness, look no further than the detractors within the party who pounced the moment Mr. Trone acknowledged his condition.

The Democratic Party we know is the party of compassion and decency. It is the party that has advocated to preserve privacy over personal health decisions and the Affordable Care Act — and fought against discrimination on the basis of preexisting medical conditions. If those principles mean anything, they demand that we do not set them aside for political advantage or expediency.

We both know politics is a contact sport. And the stakes have never been higher. There’s a time for sharp elbows and plenty of room within the party to disagree. But the primary is over. David Trone won decisively. Our responsibility now should be to come together to ensure a victory in November, not to posture and plan for the next election cycle.

Even if these parochial operatives don’t change course, David Trone should still easily win. But our party will have betrayed its principles and sunken to petty politics at a time when people are looking more than ever for us to rise above.

Rushern L. Baker III (RushernLBaker3@gmail.com ) is Prince George's County Executive and was a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah (krish.vignarajah@gmail.com) was a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland; she previously served at the White House as Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama.

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