For the second time in as many months, an elected official from Prince George’s County who received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the family of David Trone is endorsing the liquor retailer’s run for Congress in another part of the state.
Freshman Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) on Tuesday announced his support for Trone’s campaign to succeed outgoing Rep. John Delaney in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, covering part of Montgomery County and all of western Maryland.
Trone, who founded Total Wine with his brother, and members of his family have given Brown, a former state delegate and lieutenant governor, a total of $35,100 since 2015, campaign finance data show. Both Trone and Brown denied any connection between the endorsement and the contributions, noting that the two men have known and supported each other for years.
“Congressman Brown and David Trone have a long relationship, and he has seen David’s work on criminal justice issues firsthand — including banning the box and helping the formerly incarcerated gain employment after their release,” Brown spokesman Matthew Verghese said in a statement. “David has the right experience and passion for public service, and will be a good partner in Congress as they work together to expand opportunity, support our veterans and address the opioid crisis.”
Trone is one of eight Democrats — including two state lawmakers — seeking the party’s nomination for Delaney’s seat in the June 26 primary. Four Republicans are also running.
In February, Trone was endorsed by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), a former state delegate who is running for governor and has received $39,000 in donations from Trone family members, according to campaign filings.
Baker’s spokeswoman said the Prince George’s official was supporting Trone based on their shared personal passion for finding a cure to Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts Baker’s wife. Trone’s father also had Alzheimer’s.
Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College, said the endorsements from politicians who live outside the 6th District and have received campaign contributions could give “ammunition” to Trone opponents.
“They’ll say, ‘Look at this, the fix is in. I wish I had the money to buy endorsements,’ ” Eberly said. “And there really isn’t a good answer to that.”
State Del. Aruna Miller (Montgomery), who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, said, “There seems to be a pattern of Mr. Trone making large campaign contributions to officials who then endorse him. I like to believe public office is something you earn.”
For years, Trone has tapped his personal wealth to bolster Democrats at all levels of politics. He and his wife hosted a lavish fundraiser at their Potomac home during Brown’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign that featured former president Bill Clinton as a special guest.
Trone spent $13 million on his own unsuccessful primary campaign for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District in 2016. Brown did not endorse a candidate in that primary, which was eventually won by Rep. Jamie Raskin (in Maryland, state residents can run for Congress regardless of whether they live in the district they would represent).
“Congressman Brown and Trone met long before the event at David’s house with President Clinton,” Trone spokesman Alex Koren said in a statement. “Their relationship goes back more than a decade to when Brown first ran for Lt. Governor. It’s absurd for anyone to suggest that Congressman Brown’s endorsement could be bought.”
Trone has also been endorsed by state Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s) and former Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan.
State campaign finance reports show that members of the Trone family contributed a total of $24,300 on Aug. 31, 2017, to a committee Brown used to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign. They also gave him $10,800 on March 26, 2015, when he was running for Congress, according to federal reports.
In addition to Miller and Trone, the other Democrats seeking the 6th District nomination are retired intelligence officer Andrew Duck, retired economist George English, businessman Chris Graves, pediatrician and novelist Nadia Hashimi, aerospace executive Chris Hearsey and state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery).
The Republicans in the race are defense contractor Amie Hoeber, nurse practitioner Lisa Lloyd and two more recently filed candidates, Kurt Elsasser and Bradley St. Rohrs.