This story was updated at 6 p.m. Nov. 16, 2019, to correct a reference to David Trone and his business.
Incumbent Rep. David Trone has his first opponent in the Democratic race for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.
Maxx Bero, a government teacher at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, announced Friday that he plans to oppose Trone in the 2020 election. Trone “plans on running an aggressive campaign for re-election,” according to spokeswoman Hannah Muldavin.
Republican Kevin Caldwell, a Frederick County resident who ran for the district as a Libertarian in 2018, has also filed as a candidate.
Trone, a co-founder of the retail chain Total Wine & More, won the seat in 2018 after former Congressman John Delaney decided to run for president instead of re-election. Trone had already captured attention two years earlier when he spent $14 million to run for Congress in the 8th District, losing to Rep. Jamie Raskin in the Democratic primary.
In 2018, Trone spent $15.8 million of his own money in what became the state’s most expensive race. He beat Republican candidate Amie Hoeber, a former Reagan administration official, for the seat.
Trone’s vast wealth makes him less representative of the 6th District, Bero said — an economically, politically and demographically diverse area that stretches from Montgomery County to Garrett County.
“He’s just not the kind of representative I want for my district,” Bero said. “He’s been a very successful businessman, and good for him. But Congress shouldn’t be limited to people with that kind of money.”
Bero, 29, lives in Clarksburg with his wife, Natasha, and 4-year-old daughter, Siobhan. He was inspired to run for Congress after President Donald Trump’s election win in 2016.
Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants cut especially deep, Bero said, given the large number of Latino students in his classes every day.
In 2018, he considered running for District 15 in the Maryland House of Delegates. But ultimately, Bero decided his interests were more closely aligned with national issues.
“At the end of the day, I’m not dissatisfied with the way Maryland is run,” he said. “My dissatisfaction is more at the national level, and that’s where I think I can make a difference.”
The race will be his first run for office. Bero said he’s raised $1,000 since announcing his campaign.
Many of his interests align closely with progressive Democratic representatives such as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Bero said he would unquestionably support the Green New Deal, a congressional proposal that calls on the government to drastically reduce carbon emissions, transition to all-renewable energy, and invest in high-speed transit and electric vehicles.
Like Warren, he considers regulating the tech industry to be a major campaign platform. Bero said he would support efforts to break up industry giants such as Facebook and Amazon, and would endorse legislation to protect online privacy for U.S. residents.
Campaign finance is another concern. On his website, Bero describes Citizens United v. FEC — a Supreme Court case that defined campaign contributions as political speech subject to First Amendment protections — as “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of the last 100 years.” Financial barriers to candidacy make government less representative, he argued, and prevent many qualified candidates from running for national office.
“I think the whole system needs major reform,” he said. “We need to find some way to make running for office accessible to everyone.”
One possible solution would be public financing of congressional campaigns, Bero added — similar to a Montgomery County program that matches campaign contributions for candidates who agree to accept only small, individual donations.
But Bero also said he wouldn’t necessarily decline campaign contributions from political action committees or special interest groups, as many progressive candidates — including Warren and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — have pledged.
“It’s easy to say ‘no’ now,” Bero said. “But I think I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I wouldn’t love taking money from PACs, but it’s not like they’re not people, too.”
As an educator, Bero also counts education among his primary issues. One of his biggest gripes is with the national standardized testing system, which doesn’t give teachers enough flexibility in planning classwork and educating their students, he said.
The Democratic primary in Maryland will be April 28, 2020. The general election will be on Nov. 3.