D.C.-based political handicapper shifts District 6 horse race more toward Trone
When Maryland Democrats’ decennial redistricting plan—triggered by the 2020 census—was thrown out by a state judge this spring, the plan hurriedly written to replace it contained some unwelcome surprises for two-term U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Potomac).
The 6th District represented by Trone – which, from Montgomery County, extends 200 miles to the western edge of Maryland’s Panhandle – saw its footprint in overwhelmingly Democratic Montgomery reduced, while picking up Republican-leaning areas to the north in Frederick County. The result of the new boundaries turned a Democratic-dominated district that Trone won by 19 percentage points in 2020 into a politically competitive seat.
But, while the 2022 political environment remains a challenging one for Democrats nationally, Trone now seems in a position to breathe a bit easier. Just prior to Labor Day, the Washington, D.C.-based Cook Political Report – a highly regarded handicapper of House and Senate races around the country – removed the 6th District from the politically fragile “lean Democratic” category and shifted it to the more secure “likely Democratic” classification.
What prompted the publication’s changed assessment of Trone’s chances? For one, the results of the July 19 Republican primary. “Any Republican scenario for ousting Trone likely involved a Larry Hogan-esque performance in the governor’s race at the top of the ticket,” wrote David Wasserman, House race analyst for the Cook Political Report, alluding to Republican Hogan’s 2014 and 2018 wins in a state with a 2-1 Democratic registration edge.
However, Wasserman hastened to add that such a scenario “went out the window when state Del. Dan Cox, whom Hogan has called ‘not, in my opinion, mentally stable’ won the GOP primary.” Cox, with former President Donald Trump’s backing, beat out Hogan’s choice, former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, in the primary.
On top of that, the Republican District 6 nominee, Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County – whom Trone handily defeated in 2020 under the district’s former lines — managed to raise only $140,000 in the second quarter of this year in the face of Trone’s famously deep pockets. “The Democrats wish they had a human ATM in more districts this year,” Wasserman wryly observed.
Trone—co-owner of Total Wine & More, with more than 230 stores nationwide — was ranked the 17th wealthiest member of Congress in a 2020 analysis by Business Insider. During the current election cycle, he has so far pumped more than $12.55 million of his own funds into his campaign – about $5 million short of the $17.5 million record for a self-funded congressional candidate that he established in first winning the 6th District seat in 2018.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin offers advice – and constructive criticism – for a longtime ally
Three days before the July 19 primary, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin delivered a key Democratic primary endorsement for his fellow Takoma Park resident, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich – who ultimately emerged with renomination by a wafer-thin 32 votes.
Appearing virtually before the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club earlier this week, Raskin had some advice – combined with a bit of constructive criticism – for Elrich, who was not in the online audience.
“I love Marc Elrich – I love him for his great virtues and his unswerving commitment. I love him even for his flaws, too,” Raskin mused.
Raskin’s best-selling memoir, Unthinkable, released at the beginning of this year, makes note of his long friendship with Elrich — who was first elected to the County Council in 2006, the same year as Raskin launched his political career by ousting a veteran incumbent, Democrat Ida Ruben, to win a Maryland Senate seat.
“A number of progressives were urging me to run for the state senate – like … Marc Elrich, a Takoma Park city councilman and a Bernie-like ’60s radical who had been running unsuccessfully countywide, and wanted to try again for the County Council with me on the ballot helping to galvanize a strong progressive network in the eastern county,” Raskin writes in the book, alluding to four prior unsuccessful council bids by Elrich.
During this week’s virtual breakfast club session, Raskin – referring to Elrich’s initial election as county executive in 2018 – recalled, “The first time he got elected, I said, ‘Marc, you’ve got to reach out to people more, and make some more friends.’ ” Added Raskin, “Obviously, the people who love him, love him… . He has the opportunity, in this term, to reach out in a big way to lots of people who were not his supporters before – and to get some great things done.”
Raskin also figuratively tipped his hat to David Blair, the Potomac businessman whom Elrich has defeated twice in the Democratic primary — in 2018 and again this year –by very thin margins. “I think David Blair had some important things to say, and I hope Marc reaches out to him and takes him out to the breakfast, or what have you,” Raskin declared.
He paused and added, “Look, politics is a game of addition… . The Democratic Party is big, it’s unwieldy, it’s heterogeneous – but it’s all we’ve got, and we’ve got to love it, we’ve got to fortify it, and we’ve got to keep building it to make it ever stronger.”
Raskin’s advice came a day after a Labor Day plea by Elrich for contributions — as his campaign highlighted a long-time core of his support, organized labor, in a blast email. “We want to take this moment on Labor Day to acknowledge the importance of the Labor Movement and unions,” the email from “Team Elrich” said, boasting, “Marc was endorsed by every union that endorsed in the County Executive’s race…”
Well, not quite. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 – which represents members of the county’s police force – opted this year to make no endorsement in the Democratic primary for county executive after endorsing Elrich in 2018. Meanwhile, Lodge 35 endorsed Reardon Sullivan in the Republican primary.
It remains unclear whether the FOP will revisit the matter for the general election, or stand by its position in the primary – making Sullivan, now the GOP nominee, their de facto choice in November. Lee Holland, president of FOP Lodge 35, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raskin part two: In rare agreement with Hogan, Raskin characterizes Cox as ‘deranged’
Raskin and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan don’t agree on much. But Frederick County Del. Dan Cox, this year’s Trump-endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee, is clearly a point of accord.
In the wake of Hogan refusing to endorse Cox and questioning the latter’s mental stability following the July 19 primary, Raskin – appearing virtually before the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club this week – characterized Cox as “deranged.”
“Everything that Gov. Hogan is saying about him is correct,” Raskin said of Cox. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with not just his politics, but his approach to interaction with other human beings. “
Raskin has more than a fleeting acquaintance with Cox: Raskin was elected to his first term in the 8th Congressional District after defeating Cox in the 2016 general election. Cox — who recently sought to label this year’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Wes Moore, as a “communist” – utilized similar rhetoric in 2016: At one point, he falsely charged Raskin had received the endorsement of the Communist Party USA.
“The only Communists I’m aware of today are in Donald Trump’s camp,” Raskin wisecracked in comments immediately after this week’s breakfast club session – alluding to two foreign dictators, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump had chummy relations while in power. During the session, Raskin – lead House manager during Trump’s second impeachment trial in early 2021 – tore into the former president as an “organized crime boss” and “one-man crime wave.”
But Raskin was more measured in his comments when asked about the controversial move by the Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA) during the primary to run TV ads highlighting Cox’s hardline conservative views. The DGA’s action was widely seen as a not-so-subtle maneuver to prop up Cox among Republican conservatives and ensure the Democrats would face him rather than Hogan’s choice, former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz – who was considered a more competitive general election candidate.
“If I were in charge of it, I wouldn’t do it just because I believe in karma,” Raskin said of the DGA’s strategy. “I think it’s kind of bad karma to be out there publicizing Dan Cox’s views, you don’t know what’s going to happen. …You’re playing with fire when you’re out there publicizing and spotlighting the Trumpier candidate.”
However, Raskin – who recently announced a bid for a leadership position as top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – stopped well short of criticizing Democratic campaign groups that have engaged in these tactics, saying, “I do believe some of our groups have gotten kind of an unfair rap.”
Sounding at times a bit like the law school professor he was for nearly three decades, Raskin continued: “If it clarifies the choice for people on the Republican side, I don’t know that is fundamentally unethical — if our ethical duty is to make sure we keep these people out of office.
“If we understand the danger we’re in with Trump’s Republican Party, our moral imperative has got to be to build Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate – and if that means clarifying the choices at every step along the way, it’s hard for me to condemn that [and] to see that as an immoral thing.”
He alluded to a recent move by the campaign arm of the House Democratic majority to run TV ads in Michigan, boosting a Trump-endorsed candidate who went on to defeat Rep. Peter Meijer – a Republican who had voted to impeach Trump last year –in the primary. “People are saying to me, ‘Well, why aren’t you supporting the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment in the House?” Raskin acknowledged.
“And I said, ‘I’ll be glad to support them if they agreed not to vote for a Trump-loving Republican for speaker of the House’,” he rejoined, in a dig at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California — widely expected to be the next speaker if the Republicans win House control in November.
Louis Peck, a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine, can be reached at: email@example.com.