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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political notes: Ad wars in CD-3, Alsobrooks and Trone amp up endorsements

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) endorses Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) for U.S. Senate in a video that was released Monday. Screenshot.

At least two candidates in the very crowded 3rd congressional district Democratic primary are on the air this week, ahead of the May 14 vote.

Former U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn is up Tuesday with his second TV ad and his first radio spot, while state Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) is launching her first TV ad.

Dunn’s second TV ad, not unlike his first, leans into his heroism during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and his later crusade against political extremists allied with former President Donald Trump.

“What’s most important to you?” Dunn says in a voice-over at the top of the 30-second ad, as images flash of happy individuals and families engaged in a number of different activities.

“Now, what would you do to protect it? I’m Harry Dunn and after defending the Capitol from Trump’s insurrectionists, I used my voice to fight back.”

The ad then switches to footage of the testimony Dunn gave to the special U.S. House committee that investigated Jan. 6.

“To the rioters, insurrectionists and terrorists of that day … you all tried to disrupt democracy that day and you all failed,” he says. Then Dunn returns to the narration, with video of the mayhem at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“They will keep trying. But they’ll keep failing. I approved this message because Maryland’s future is what’s most important to me. And I’ll do anything to protect it.”

A campaign spokesperson said the campaign has made a six-figure buy to air the ad on Baltimore broadcast TV, cable and digital.

The 60-second radio ad is a more traditional biographical spot, with a female narrator laying out aspects of Dunn’s law enforcement career that many people might be familiar with, along with his education background and the values he learned from his family. Dunn speaks in the final 15 seconds of the ad.

“This is Harry Dunn and I approved this message because to create economic opportunities for all, defend abortion rights and bring down the rising costs of health care, we have got to stop Donald Trump and MAGA extremists,” he says. “I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again in Congress.”

Dunn on Monday also announced the endorsement from the first elected official in Maryland to publicly back his campaign, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D) — though Jawando does not represent any territory in the 3rd District.

“Harry will be a fearless champion for the bold, progressive reforms that our country needs,” Jawando said.

While Dunn continues to get national attention for his bid — and his campaign asserts that he has raised millions of dollars, which will be borne out when he files a campaign finance report on April 15 — he did receive an unwelcome headline late last week when Punchbowl News, a Capitol Hill publication, reported that Dunn had been suspended without pay from the Capitol Police force in 2012 for improperly handling his department-issued gun.

According to the news outlet, the four-day suspension occurred while the Montgomery County Police Department conducted a domestic violence investigation into Dunn; no charges in that case were ever filed.

Dunn and his ex-wife Danyel released a statement to Punchbowl News last week saying, in part, “It’s clear this difficult time in our lives is being raised through illegal leaks to the press because MAGA Republicans want to attack Harry for his heroism on January 6th, but we didn’t expect them to target our family.” Danyel Dunn also called her ex-husband “a peaceful person.”

But the Capitol Police did find that Dunn had stored his service weapon in a home lockbox with a broken lock for more than a month, resulting in his suspension.

Meanwhile, Elfreth, arguably the most prominent woman in the 22-candidate 3rd District Democratic primary (and also one of the very few), is also set to begin a TV ad campaign on Tuesday. The 30-second ad, which is going to run on Baltimore broadcast channels, focuses on Elfreth’s support for abortion rights and other women’s issues. It intersperses comments from Elfreth and seven women who are supporting her campaign.

“I woke up the day after the Dobbs decision with fewer rights than I had the day before,” Elfreth says as the ad begins.

“We all did,” says one supporter.

“So we took action,” says another.

“I’m Sarah Elfreth,” the candidate says.

“She beat a pro-life Republican to earn a seat in the state Senate,” a supporter says.

“And she went to work,” says another.

“Sarah led on abortion rights,” says another.

“And expanding affordable child care,” says another woman.

“So that women have the freedom to fully participate in the economy, in our communities and in our democracy,” another supporter says.

Elfreth closes the ad by saying she’s running for Congress because “laws about women should be written by women.”

In another 3rd District development, Anne Arundel County businessman Juan Dominguez, the only Latino in the Democratic race, picked up the endorsement Monday of the Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee.

Sindy M. Benavides, the group’s president and CEO, called Dominguez “the embodiment of public service.”

“He’s not in it for himself; he’s in it for the people, and that’s the kind of representative our community deserves on Capitol Hill during these challenging times,” Benavides said in a statement. “Juan’s priorities reflect the priorities the Latino community deeply cares about, which is why he’s ready to work to expand healthcare access, create more educational opportunities, and tackle income inequality.”

Senate endorsement one-upmanship

The Democratic primary for U.S. Senate feels like a seesaw contest between the top two contenders, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th). The two campaigns seem to anticipate each other’s moves, and keep endorsements or other good developments in their back pockets to counter the other’s news.

Monday was a perfect example: Alsobrooks announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) — one of the few public officials who may actually have the ability to move the needle in this contest —while Trone countered with endorsements from several elected officials in Alsobrooks’ home turf, Prince George’s County.

Raskin’s endorsement wasn’t altogether surprising: He’s appeared alongside Alsobrooks at a few campaign events for the past month or so, and also addressed a group of her canvassers in Silver Spring. But he finally publicly uttered the magic words in a minute-long video that her campaign released on Monday morning.

“She’s going to deliver for the people of Maryland in the United States Senate every day,” Raskin says in the video as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Alsobrooks. “She’s also going to defend democracy and freedom against Donald Trump and the MAGA right.”

Raskin also makes a dig at former Gov. Larry Hogan, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate, calling him “another brick in the wall for Donald Trump and his party.”

“This is not a time when anybody can afford to sit on the sidelines,” Raskin says.

The video shows Alsobrooks and Raskin embracing, then she says, “He represents so beautifully, not only the principles of democracy, but of integrity, decency, dignity, equality — all of the things our country stands for.”

The Prince George’s officials announced their support for Trone Monday at the Insulators and Allied Workers Local 24 union hall in Laurel. The endorsements came from House Health and Government Operations Committee Chair Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk, Dels. Deni Taveras, Ashanti Martinez and Mary Lehman, along with Mayor Celina Benitez of Mount Rainier, Mayor Monica Casañas of Colmar Manor, New Carrollton Councilmember Brianna Urbina, and Edmonston Councilmember Kony Serrano Portillo.

Some of these endorsements are also not altogether surprising, as several Latino leaders in Prince George’s have been critical of Alsobrooks and her administration — and Peña-Melnyk told Maryland Matters months ago that she would not be supporting the county executive in the primary.

“David‘s different,” Peña-Melnyk said Monday. “He’s the only elected official I’ve met other than me who knows what it’s like to grow up using an outhouse. David cares about people and fights hard for what he believes in. In Congress, he’s done a lot to create opportunities for returning citizens and to protect women’s rights.”

Trone said in response, “In the United States Senate, I’ll give these incredible elected officials a partner who is willing to roll up their sleeves and fight for the progress their communities deserve.”

The dueling endorsements come after a tumultuous week for Trone. He was forced on the defensive late last week for mistakenly using a racially offensive word during a committee hearing when he meant to say “bugaboo.”

Trone offered a quick apology.

“While attempting to use the word bugaboo in a hearing, I used a phrase that is offensive,” he said. “That word has a long, dark, terrible history. It should never be used any time, anywhere, in any conversation. I recognize that as a white man, I have privilege.

“And as an elected official, I have a responsibility for the words I use — especially in the heat of the moment. Regardless of what I meant to say, I shouldn’t have used that language, and I apologize.”

If, as some political professionals believe, the race between Alsobrooks and Trone is getting closer (Trone’s polls have shown him with a double-digit lead, while a Washington Post survey released last week showed him ahead by 7 points), even a little mistake can make a big difference. How big this mistake turns out to be is ultimately up to the voters.

Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation was a financial supporter of Maryland Matters in 2017 and 2018.


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Political notes: Ad wars in CD-3, Alsobrooks and Trone amp up endorsements