Baltimore Banner: “David Trone is Trying to Buy a U.S. Senate Seat”

BALTIMORE BANNER: The top Democratic contenders for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat faced off, trading barbs about their fundraising, positions and experiences before a crowd of several hundred people on Saturday afternoon.

It was the first time in months that the front-runners, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone, shared a stage in the highly competitive race.

They found common ground on just one point: the need for Democrats to defeat Republican candidate Larry Hogan and his party in the general election.

Each of them, as expected, declared that they’re the best choice to beat the former governor, who made a surprise entrance into the race on the filing deadline. Hogan’s candidacy upended the Democrats’ strategies, and they immediately began focusing nearly as much on him as on each other.

Polls show we can beat Larry. We have the resources; we have the record,” said Trone, a self-funded candidate who boasts about working in a bipartisan manner in Congress.

At another point, Trone declared: “I could take Larry Hogan, no doubt about it.”

Alsobrooks said Hogan is a threat because he will vote with Republicans against women’s rights, voting rights and other Democratic priorities.

“If we allow Larry Hogan to be elected — which we will not — you best believe he will be voting with Mitch McConnell,” Alsobrooks said, referring to the Senate Republican leader who boasted about recruiting Hogan to the race.

She also warned: “Larry Hogan would be a vote with the Republicans. Do not be confused about that.”

On many policy areas, Trone and Alsobrooks explained similar policy positions in response to questions from moderator Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist.

They offered support for increasing the federal minimum wage, enacting national law to protect access to abortion, supporting public schools and educators, and fighting to bring transportation funding to Maryland.

But they also hammered each other on differences.

On the death penalty, for example, Alsobrooks said that while she sought the death penalty when she was a prosecutor, she respects that Maryland later outlawed capital punishment. Alsobrooks added, though, that some violent perpetrators, particularly those who kill children, deserve the harshest penalty possible.”

Trone responded: “I believe, after all that, that you have supported the death penalty, and you do in some cases moving forward.”

Trone said he doesn’t support the death penalty at the state or federal level. “Never have, never will,” he said.

When Alsobrooks was given a chance to respond, she fired back: “Mr. Trone, I can understand it. He’s never had to keep any community safe. It’s never been his role or responsibility. … I have had to do that, which means I’ve had to make tough decisions.”

Alsobrooks added that she does not support the death penalty in Maryland — “the people of Maryland have spoken,” she said — and would not support it on the federal level, either.

The pair also had exchanges about campaign fundraising. Trone, who has spent tens of millions of his own money on his campaign, charged that candidates who accept money from big donors and political action committees may be compromised.

Alsobrooks called Trone “a one-man super PAC” and said it’s comical that he’s spending “$50 million to try and buy this race.”

“He doesn’t give to PACs; he is the PAC,” Alsobrooks said.

She noted Trone and his company, Total Wine & More, have donated to Republican candidates, including those who oppose abortion. Trone responded that it was important to make those donations in certain states to benefit his business and people who work for him.

Trone said he was not born wealthy and recalled the oft-repeated story of his family’s farm going bankrupt and his efforts to build his retail liquor business.

“The fact that I became wealthy, I won’t apologize for that,” Trone said, noting he could hoard his wealth in his family, but he’d rather use it to try to make the country a better place.

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