David Trone, co-owner of Bethesda-based Total Wine & More, is considering a run for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District, his spokesman said Monday evening.
The entry of Trone, a multimillionaire and major Democratic donor who lives in Potomac, would seriously scramble the race for the seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Trone could easily self-fund a campaign against the seven contenders in the April 26 Democratic primary, who include state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) and former news anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews. Trone is expected to make a decision within the next few days. The filing deadline is Feb. 3.
Trone, 60, who has never run for office, referred questions to Total Wine & More spokesman Ed Cooper. “He’s looking at it,” Cooper said. “He will have a decision later on this week.”
Word of a possible candidacy started circulating in Montgomery political circles last week, with reports of a telephone poll testing negative and positive messages about Trone, Matthews and Raskin. The poll was first reported by Seventh State, a Maryland political blog.
Other Democrats in the race are Dels. Kumar P. Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez, former Obama aide Will Jawando, former State Department official Joel Rubin and David Anderson, an executive with a nonprofit group that promotes internships and seminars.
Should Trone decide to run, it would not be good news for Matthews, who is courting the kind of support from the business community that Trone could also claim. Trone would also probably diminish Matthews’s fundraising advantage. She had taken in more than $1 million through Sept. 30, aided by a network of corporate and political contacts developed in tandem with her husband, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
Some District 8 political insiders speculate that Trone is weighing the race because private-sector leaders are not confident that Matthews, a political novice, can beat Raskin, a popular incumbent lawmaker from Takoma Park.
Trone is a big name in Democratic fundraising. In November, he hosted a $20,000-per-couple fundraiser for President Obama at his home. Trone also held a 2014 fundraiser for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown.
The businessman is also an active philanthropist. Last year, he donated $15 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to expand a campaign to reduce prison populations and promote initiatives to improve employment prospects for ex-prisoners.
Total Wine & More is reported to be the nation’s largest privately held retailer of beer, with more than 100 stores in 18 states. Trone and his brother, Robert, adapted the “big box” retail concept to selling alcohol. Their business model has triggered regulatory and legal fights that are likely to be raised by opponents should Trone move forward with a campaign.