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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Trone, Alsobrooks vie for support from high-turnout senior living community

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) field questions at a U.S. Senate candidates forum hosted by the Democratic Club of Leisure World. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

With little more than a month before early voting centers open in Maryland, the leading Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate made their pitches to residents at a vote-rich senior living community in Montgomery County on Thursday evening.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) fielded more than a dozen questions from moderators and audience members at the forum hosted by the Democratic Club of Leisure World.

Both said it was imperative that Democrats retain the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), but they offered different visions for defeating former Gov. Larry Hogan, the presumptive Republican nominee, in November.

Trone touted his bipartisan record in the U.S. House and success in Maryland’s most competitive congressional district. A wealthy businessman before his election to Congress in 2018, Trone also said he has “the resources to bring to bear and do whatever it takes” to win the seat. He has spent at least $23.2 million on the Senate primary campaign so far and has vowed not to take any funding from political action committees or lobbyists.

Alsobrooks pointed to her widespread support from state elected officials, including Gov. Wes Moore (D) and six of the nine Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation. She has raised more than $5 million so far in the race and her campaign claimed her fourth-quarter donations were the highest-ever in state campaign history.

While both candidates trailed Hogan by double-digits in a Washington Post poll released earlier this month — Trone by 12 points and Alsobrooks by 14 — she called the result a “dead heat,” particularly in light of the funding disparities.

Elsewhere in that poll, 34% of registered Democrats said they would support Trone in a primary over Alsobrooks, who attracted support from 27%. However, 39% of those polled said they remained undecided.

Campaign signs in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary line a walkway at Leisure World in Montgomery County. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

About 200 community members attended the 90-minute forum, joined by another 200 online.

Leisure World, home to more than 9,000 residents, is a political powerhouse with three election precincts of its own and high voter turnout.

Throughout the night, the candidates traded barbs over endorsements, work experience, and the influence of Trone’s vast wealth on the Senate campaign and others.

Alsobrooks said she would be a stalwart advocate for robust reproductive rights in the Senate and noted that the state’s current 10-member Capitol Hill delegation is all male. “We really should send some women to Washington,” she said. “…I believe that electing women is not only good for Maryland, it is good for America.”

Alsobrooks attacked Trone for past contributions made by himself and Total Wine & More (the company he owns with his brother) to anti-abortion candidates across the country.

Trone countered that he’d received a 100% score on legislative votes from leading reproductive rights groups and said he’s only ever donated to Democratic candidates on the federal level. He also said he’s given more than $10 million over the last three election cycles, with a focus on swing-district candidates.

Trone diminished Alsobrooks’ endorsements, responding that he was running as an outsider. “I’m not part of the club. I’m not a part of the career politicians, they all hang together, they endorse each other, they go to the same fundraisers, they take the same money from all the PACs, from all the lobbyists, from all the special interests,” he said.

Trone, however, also touted his own support from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and California Rep. Adam Schiff, who is also running for Senate, among others.

Something different

Moderator Lou Peck, contributing editor at MoCo 360 and cofounder of Maryland Matters, said both Alsobrooks and Trone would be departures from Maryland’s recent norm in terms of U.S. senators: Alsobrooks would be the first senator in 60 years to not have served in the U.S. House of Representatives first; Trone would be the oldest freshman senator from Maryland in the chamber in more than 100 years.

Alsobrooks said her experience as county executive puts her closer to problems on the ground and the solutions to them. She also said it was important for Marylanders to elect lawmakers who reflect the “lived experiences” of state residents.

Trone said the Senate, where most actions require bipartisan support, would benefit from someone who’s already been figuring out how to work across the aisle with colleagues.

On the future of Social Security — a topic of concern for the assembled crowd — both candidates said they support legislation to lift a cap on contributions to the program by wealthy individuals. Trone noted that he’s cosponsored the legislation for several years.

Asked by moderator Erin Cox, state politics reporter for The Washington Post, which committees they’d seek to serve on, both candidates said they would like a seat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Trone said he would also be interested in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation — to work on business equity issues, among others — while Alsobrooks said she would be interested in an appointment to Judiciary, where she said senators must continue to grapple with a “horrible” legacy of appointees during the Trump administration.

Asked what legislation they would introduce first if elected, Trone said he would continue work to curb substance abuse and bolster mental health care treatment. Alsobrooks said she would immediately join efforts to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

In closing statements, Trone said that, without the influence of major donors, he can think differently about a wide range of issues: supporting congressional term limits, restrictions on stock trading by members of Congress, and term limits and a Code of Ethics for the U.S. Supreme Court, among others.

“We’ve got to talk about ideas that are different,” Trone said. “We’ve got to stop electing people over and over that are part of the same team. …We don’t need any more lawyers.”

Alsobrooks, whose career in politics began when she was elected as Prince George’s County state’s attorney, retorted that it was “hilarious” that Trone characterized himself as different in a Senate full of white, wealthy, male members.

She said she would focus on economic and educational opportunities and other issues that are most important to everyday Marylanders.

“What we need are people who … have the lived experience and understand the cares and concerns of the people they represent,” Alsobrooks said.

Before the forum kicked off Thursday, lesser-known candidate Brian Frydenborg greeted voters outside the ballroom. He and seven other Democratic candidates will appear on the May ballot.

Early voting in the 2024 primary runs from May 2 to May 9. Election Day is May 14.

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


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Trone, Alsobrooks vie for support from high-turnout senior living community