The wealthy Maryland businessman is the second candidate — after Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando — to enter what is likely to be a crowded primary for an open Democratic-leaning Senate seat. The 79-year-old Cardin announced Monday that he would not seek another term, forcing a shadow race to succeed him into the open.
Trone, the founder of Total Wine & More, the country’s largest independent wine and spirits retailer, won a Western Maryland congressional seat in 2018. He had been preparing for a likely Cardin retirement for months, hiring staff and assembling a campaign team well before the senator revealed his plans.
His primary competition is likely to include Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who hired a campaign manager earlier this year and is expected to jump into the race soon. Alsobrooks, an ally of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, will probably have the support of EMILY’s List. Another possible competitor: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who could easily run in the progressive lane. While in office, Trone has cast a more centrist profile. He is a member of the New Democrat Coalition and often touts his bipartisan credentials.
His district, which spans from the outskirts of Montgomery County to the state’s border with West Virginia, is the most competitive in the state. President Joe Biden won it by 10 points in 2020. Trone won reelection in 2022 against Republican Neil Parrott by 10 points.
Yet in an interview ahead of his launch, Trone repeatedly described himself as a progressive, just one with a pragmatic streak.
“I’m a progressive through and through,” he said, “but at the same time, you can be a progressive, and you can work with folks that are on the other side of the aisle to accomplish things.”
But his biggest asset is perhaps his bank account. Trone spent more than $13 million in 2016 in an unsuccessful attempt to win a House seat in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, losing in the primary to Raskin. Two years later he spent some $17 million in a neighboring seat and won.
Trone is willing to invest tens of millions of dollars into his statewide run, according to a person familiar with his plans who was granted anonymity because they were not at liberty to discuss them.
The congressman declined to detail how much he would be willing to invest but said that he thought voters would approve of his ability to eschew corporate PAC or lobbyist donations.
“It’ll take significant resources,” he said.
Trone’s campaign manager will be Dan Morrocco, who led Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s successful reelection bid in Connecticut in 2022.
The biggest remaining question mark is whether Raskin will enter the race. A progressive star who developed a national profile from his role investigating the Jan. 6 attacks, Raskin previously said he had been receiving encouragement to run. He just finished chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma and said the cancer was now in remission.
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