The man who set records for personal spending in pursuit of a seat in Congress has prevailed.
Businessman David J. Trone (D) defeated Amie Hoeber (R) Tuesday to win Maryland’s 6th congressional District, a battleground that stretches from western Montgomery County into the western panhandle of the state.
Although it was widely considered the most competitive House race in Maryland, Trone won easily, with 58 percent of the vote to Hoeber’s 39 percent. Other candidates combined for 3 percent.
In what was considered the state’s other competitive congressional race – though it turned out to be a blowout – Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the lone Republican in the state delegation, defeated Afghanistan War veteran Jesse Colvin (D), 61 percent to 38 percent.
Celebrating with supporters at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center in Montgomery County, entering the room to the Tom Petty hit, “I Won’t Back Down,” Trone pledged to get to work seeking “solutions” to the nation’s challenges.
“We can create a government that has compassion. We can create a government that’s actually competent,” he said. “And most important, we can create a government that understands civility, because that’s been lost.”
Trone’s win was fueled by voters in Montgomery County, which he won by a 3-1 margin. He also carried Frederick County.
Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties went for Hoeber.
After the results were announced, Hoeber, a former deputy undersecretary of the Army in the Reagan years, thanked supporters who gathered at the Clarion Inn in Frederick.
“I am extremely grateful for the support I have received and thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way,” she said. “I am delighted that Gov. [Lawrence J.] Hogan has won reelection and am proud to have had his endorsement. Thank you to my supporters, my staff, and all those who voted for me. I hope this district will have a bright future. I will continue to treasure the friends I have made.”
Trone, the co-founder and CEO of Total Wine & More, will succeed three-term Rep. John K. Delaney (D), who announced last year that he would not seek another term and would run for president in 2020 instead. (At the time of his decision, Democrats were thought to have little, if any, chance of taking the House of Representatives.)
Trone spent more than $16 million in pursuit of a seat in Congress this cycle. The money allowed him to hire vastly more staff than his Democratic primary and general election rivals and to blanket the airwaves. His free-spending ways — in this race, and in a bid for Congress in the neighboring 8th District in 2016 — was a source of irritation for his opponents, who accused him of trying to buy a seat in Congress.
The day before winning the primary, Trone received confirmation that he had a “localized” cancerous tumor in his urinary tract. He underwent chemotherapy and, at the recommendation of his doctors, had a kidney removed. He was off the campaign trail for several weeks. His diagnosis was not disclosed before the primary.
Hogan was the star attraction of Hoeber fundraisers and the two taped a video together. Delaney and the state’s big-name Democrats all backed Trone, who was able to enlist House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to appear at a get-out-the-vote rally during the early voting period.
While both candidates preached civility on the campaign trail, the race turned personal at the end. A mailer from the Hoeber campaign made repeated and gratuitous use of a photo of Trone suffering from hair loss, a side effect from his cancer treatment. And TV spots accused him being “arrested” and “indicted” early in his business career, without ever saying that the charges, related to the sale of alcohol in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, were all dropped.
Trone accused Hoeber of “cashing in” on her government experience to boost her consulting work. And in an ad the Democrat ran late in the campaign, a narrator said, “Meet Amie Hoeber, the self-proclaimed mother of the chemical weapons corps — where she referred to nerve gas as just insecticides developed for people.” She defended her work, saying it helped protect American troops in combat.
Hoeber’s husband, Mark Epstein, a Qualcomm executive, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into two Super PACs supporting her candidacy. The arrangement was considered unusual, as Super PACs must, by law, be independent of the campaigns. Epstein was a constant presence with Hoeber during the race.
The 6th District was redrawn by the General Assembly and Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) in 2011 to hurt then-Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R). That redistricting scheme prompted a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court and remains active in federal court, where a three-judge panel is considering a request from a group of Republican voters to redraw the district again ahead of the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, in the 1st District, Harris beat back a challenge from Colvin on a night that saw Democrats take control of Congress.
Harris won 61 percent of the vote. Colvin, a former military intelligence officer and newcomer to politics, was the choice of 38 of 1st District voters.
The sprawling 3,600-square mile district encompasses the entire Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.
After the results were posted, Harris told WBFF-TV (Fox45) reporter John Rydell that it’s “pretty humbling to have the people in the district return me to Washington by an overwhelming margin.”
A staunch conservative and member of the House Freedom Caucus, Harris will remain the only Republican in Maryland’s eight-member House delegation.
Colvin’s bid to unseat Harris, a four-term incumbent, was destined to be an uphill battle. The 2011 redistricting plan that made the 6th District more competitive for Democrats also packed more conservative voters in the 1st District, which solidly backed President Trump in 2016.
The challenger surprised observers by raising more funds than the incumbent during the final months of the contest. Harris felt nervous enough that he had Trump record a robo-call for him in the closing days of the contest.
Former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R), an environmental activist who lost to Harris in the 2008 GOP primary, crossed party lines to back the Democrat.
Maryland’s six other incumbent congressmen – Anthony G. Brown, Elijah E. Cummings, Steny H. Hoyer, Jamie Raskin, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes, all Democrats – were reelected handily.
Aaron Kershaw and Jarata Jaffa contributed to this report.