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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Campaign finance report shows why Trone has gained ground in newest poll

Rep. David Trone (D-6th), right, chats with former state Sen. Victor Ramirez on June 6, 2023 at Riviera Tapas Bar in Riverdale. Prince George’s County Councilmember Edward Burroughs is in the rear. Photo by William J. Ford.

U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) continues to pump millions of dollars into his U.S. Senate campaign.

His latest campaign finance report, delivered to the Federal Election Commission Wednesday night, shows Trone spent $13.7 million between Sept. 1 and the end of 2023, $13.5 million from his own pocket. All told, Trone has spent $23.2 million so far this election cycle, as he battles Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks for the right to replace U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Trone’s aggressive spending appears to be paying dividends: A poll released Wednesday by his campaign shows the congressman leading Alsobrooks, 45% to 34%, among likely voters in the May 14 Democratic primary. Among Democrats who said they were certain to vote, Trone led 46% to 33%.

In both models, 1% of those surveyed said they intended to support another candidate in the primary, while 21% were undecided.

Trone has saturated Maryland’s airwaves with ads, especially in the Baltimore media market, while Alsobrooks has yet to go up on TV. Even Trone’s campaign, in a memo summarizing the poll, conceded that the margin between the candidates is likely to narrow once Alsobrooks starts running ads.

Still, Trone’s campaign was happy with what it sees so far. Campaign Manager Dan Morrocco said his candidate enjoys “a commanding lead based on support from across the state.”

“It’s clear that voters are responding to David Trone’s message and vision to disrupt Washington and put people first,” he said in a statement. “As our campaign enters the final three months, we’ll continue to build on this critical momentum by expanding our organizing efforts and opening field offices throughout Maryland while continuing to communicate with voters across the state about the issues that matter most to their families.”

The campaign poll, from Hickman Analytics, Inc., surveyed 1,500 likely Democratic primary voters from Jan. 18-24. The survey had a 2.5-point margin of error.

Trone’s campaign was quick to point out that the poll anticipated that women would represent 62% of the Democratic primary electorate and that Black voters would represent 42% of the electorate — which is slightly higher than normal in both cases.

Trone’s poll showed the candidate leading by a 2-1 margin in the entire Baltimore media market, including in Baltimore City, and by a similar margin in Montgomery County, where he lives. The Trone campaign said Alsobrooks was ahead in Prince George’s, but did not make those numbers available.

Another poll for Trone taken by Hickman Analytics in late November showed the congressman with a 41% to 34% lead. So in the weeks that followed, as he spent millions to get his name in front of voters through a variety of media, Trone’s numbers went up slightly — but Alsobrooks’ did not go down.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Alsobrooks continues to raise money at a steady clip. Her latest campaign finance report shows she raised $1,783,921.81 in the last quarter of 2023, and has pulled in over $5 million overall since she joined the Senate race in May. Alsobrooks’ campaign called her haul the largest fourth quarter fundraising total, from donors, of any candidate in Maryland history.

“I am truly grateful for the historic outpouring of support for our campaign,” Alsobrooks said in a statement released earlier this month. “It’s indicative of the fact that our people-first message is resonating with everyday Marylanders. When I set a fundraising record like this, I know I didn’t do it alone.”

Alsobrooks ended 2023 with $3,128,047.72 in the bank after spending $762,004.68 in the final quarter of the year.

Some percentage of that money can only be used for the general election, not in the primary. A maximum donation for a federal primary campaign is $3,300; donors can give a candidate another $3,300 for the general election. Alsobrooks has several contributors who have surpassed the $3,300 threshold that will be available for the primary.

Alsobrooks’ campaign report shows she took in $64,535 in political action committee contributions in the last quarter of 2023, and received $99,500 from other political committees. The report shows scores of contributions from Maryland powerbrokers: elected officials, business executives, lawyers and civic leaders.

Alsobrooks also received contributions from some nationally-known figures, including philanthropist Melinda Gates, who gave $3,300 in the last quarter (and has donated $6,600); Sheryl Sandberg, the former Facebook executive, who donated $3,300 and has hit $6,600 in contributions overall); Kathryn Chenault, a philanthropist and wife of former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who gave $6,600; Maya Harris, an attorney and sister of Alsobrooks’ friend and mentor, Vice President Kamala Harris, who donated $3,300; and Thomas “Mack” McLarty, President Clinton’s longtime friend and former White House chief of staff, who chipped in $500.

Impressive as Alsobrooks’ money-raising has been, Trone’s self-funding is otherworldly, and his latest campaign finance statement is a reminder of what a very deep-pocketed campaign can buy and how it can get its message out and drive the campaign narrative.

The campaign reported taking in $13,720,903.27 in the final quarter of 2023, but $13.5 million came from Trone’s pocket. Trone’s campaign has raised $23,700,710.40 this election cycle, but $23,271,000 has come from the candidate himself.

Trone spent almost $5.3 million on media buys in the last three months of 2023, according to the campaign report. He spent at least $3.1 million during that period on digital ads, and close to $1.1 million on direct mail. Hickman Analytics, the campaign’s polling firm, was paid $266,355 in the last quarter of the year. Other consulting firms collectively were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $30,000 to Baltimore-based Adeo Advocacy, the firm that works for Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D) — both of whom have endorsed Alsobrooks.

Alsobrooks’ largest single payment in the last three months of 2023 was to her pollster, Hart Research — $51,000.

It may be outgunned on the money front, but the Alsobrooks campaign has shown an uncanny ability to tout political developments whenever Trone does. So on the same day the Trone campaign was blasting out its poll results, Alsobrooks picked up endorsements Wednesday from U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) in an upbeat video featuring the three of them. Alsobrooks was previously endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.), meaning she’s got the support of all three Black Democrats in the Senate.

GOP Senate candidates: Ficker drops $2M+

Democrats will be heavily favored to hold Cardin’s seat regardless of who wins the primary, but six Republicans are competing in the May primary. The early frontrunners appear to be John Teichert, a retired Air Force brigadier general, and Robin Ficker, who served in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1983 and has been trying to win political office just about every two years since then.

Teichert, a political neophyte, reported raising $304,340.85 since joining the race in the fall, including $5,508.74 from his own pocket. He ended 2023 with $221,029.81 in his campaign account after spending $83,311.04.

Ficker sent out a news release this week boasting of having more than $2.1 million in the bank and saying he is running “the only viable campaign in this [GOP] race.”

“I am grateful and humbled by the financial support I have received across the great State of Maryland,” Ficker said in a statement. “My campaign is about restoring logic to government, and it is clear that Marylanders are eager to restore logic to the United States Senate.

“To win this race and send a Republican to the Senate from Maryland, we need a candidate who has the resources necessary to compete with the likes of David Trone. I am the only candidate in this race who has the winning message, is getting that message to voters, and can bring to bear the resources needed to turn Maryland Red in 2024.”

What Ficker does not say is that all of his campaign cash appears to have come from his own pocket.

This story was updated with more details on Angela Alsobrooks’ donors and David Trone’s overall fundraising this election cycle.

Check back with Maryland Matters Thursday and Friday for fundraising numbers in races for the House of Representatives.

Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation was a donor to Maryland Matters in 2017 and 2018.

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Campaign finance report shows why Trone has gained ground in newest poll