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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Political notes: Shaken not stirred, an AIPAC counterpoint in CD-3, the gloves come off about the training wheels staying on

Del. Mark S. Chang (D-Anne Arundel) assumes James Bond’s persona in a new campaign ad. Screenshot.

As if there weren’t enough options in the 22-candidate Democratic primary in the 3rd congressional district, James Bond has now entered the race. Sort of.

Del. Mark S. Chang (D-Anne Arundel), one of the 22 — and one of five state lawmakers in the primary — is launching his first TV ad of the campaign later this week, and it’s an amusing parody of the James Bond movie series with Chang, of course, in the iconic starring role.

The 30-second ad, with Bond-like music and graphics, largely features footage of Chang, nattily-attired in a black tuxedo, walking against a white backdrop, as 007 himself might on the silver screen.

“When you need someone with the experience to get things done in Washington,” a narrator begins, “there’s one man you can count on.”

Chang then faces the camera and folds his arms.

“Chang. Mark Chang,” he says.

“He spent a decade in the House of Delegates,” the narrator continues. “License to legislate. And legislate he did. There’s one man to take on Trump and his MAGA bullies. But Mark’s also willing to work with anyone who will protect abortion rights, protect voting rights, and fight hate.”

Chang faces the camera in, and can’t help cracking up.

“I’m Chang. Mark Chang,” he says. “And I approve this message.”

A Chang campaign consultant said the ad will go live on TV and digital platforms across the district on Wednesday as part of a six-figure buy. Early voting begins Thursday, and the primary is on May 14.

In another development in the Democratic primary to replace departing nine-term U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3rd), J Street, the liberal pro-Israel organization that advocates for a two-state solution, on Monday endorsed Harry Dunn, the former U.S. Capitol Police officer and one of the leading candidates in the race.

“Officer Dunn defended our democratic values on January 6 and we know he’ll defend them in Congress,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president. “We’re committed to electing strong pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy candidates and pushing back against MAGA extremism, and we know Harry Dunn will fight proudly for our values.”

It seems doubtful that the endorsement will come with the firepower that the support of AIPAC, the older, more traditional and more conservative pro-Israel lobbying group, is providing to one of Dunn’s chief rivals in the primary, state Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel). The United Democracy Project, a super PAC connected to AIPAC, is running scores of TV ads on Elfreth’s behalf and is expected to spend upwards of $1 million on the race.

Still, it’s a decent counterpoint for Dunn, who, through his work since the Jan. 6 insurrection and his refusal to accept money from corporate political action committees, has tried to portray himself as the leading “pro-democracy” candidate in the race. While AIPAC backs both Democrats and Republicans, it has endorsed dozens of Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s election, and some of its top donors are in the MAGA camp.

“As money from anti-democracy Republican donors floods my race, it’s more important than ever for pro-democracy Democrats to stand together and tell these extremists they can’t buy this congressional seat,” Dunn said. “When I get to Congress, I’ll be honored to fight with J Street to support the shared democratic values at the heart of the U.S.-Israel relationship, build on the Biden administration’s leadership toward peace, and secure a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

‘The ad tries to insinuate that she is not qualified’

In the annals of negative TV ads, a new TV spot for U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, hitting his opponent, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D), seems pretty mild at first glance.

There are no outrageous accusations or sliming. No sinister-sounding narrator. No scary images.

The ad features five current or former Prince George’s elected officials who have already endorsed Trone talking about him and, in some cases, why they opted for the congressman over the county executive. No one says anything particularly combustible until County Councilmember Edward Burroughs III (D) asserts, “The U.S. Senate is not a place for training wheels.”

Seconds later in the ad, Burroughs, again referring to Alsobrooks, says, “Then you come out and run for the U.S. Senate and call yourself a progressive. The record does not reflect that whatsoever.”

OK, the ideological critique, whether you agree or not, is fair game by the standards of modern politics. But a 31-year-old council member suggesting a 53-year-old Black woman who has been an elected official for 14 years and in public service for most of her career needs training wheels?

That was pretty hard for a lot of Alsobrooks supporters to take. And some are suggesting it won’t sit well with voters.

In response to the Trone ad, at least 20 former and current elected officials and community leaders from Prince George’s spoke out in support of Alsobrooks on Monday. The news conference, organized by Prince George’s County Council President Jolene Ivey (D) was held at an information technology business in Lanham called NGEN LLC. It’s owned by Terry Speigner, the president and CEO, who is active in state and local politics.

“I think the ad tries to insinuate that she is not qualified,” Del. Nicole A. Williams (D-Prince George’s), who attended the news conference, said in an interview Monday. “She has served as the county executive for the second largest jurisdiction in the state of Maryland for six years now.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) said the turnout shows that “Prince George’s County is with Angela Alsobrooks.”

“Just take a look at our coalition: seven of the eight state senators our former County Executive Rushern Baker, Maryland State Treasurer Dereck Davis — the list goes on and it is because we know what Angela has done and will be capable of in the U.S. Senate. I think of how she led us to bringing the FBI to Prince George’s County — how she spoke about opportunity and equity and helped make the case, it’s that vision that she brings to her fight for Maryland and why I’m supporting her.”

Trone’s campaign, meanwhile, issued a memo Monday arguing that the congressman “has solidified his position as the frontrunner in this race, backed by a diverse coalition of community leaders, state delegates, and unions.” It features supportive quotes from several elected officials and labor leaders, and also reiterates that Trone is the Democrat best-equipped to defeat former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in the general election.

“David is battle-tested and will do whatever it takes to defeat Larry Hogan,” the memo says.

Trone this week also picked up the endorsement of the Latino Democratic Club of Montgomery County. The club also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) for reelection, and is backing Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) to replace Trone in the 6th District.

Legislator-folk hero from Tenn. comes to town

The arrangements were a little unclear as of Monday night, but Trone and Alsobrooks may share a stage Tuesday afternoon at the third annual energy summit hosted by the Caucus of African American Leaders of Anne Arundel County.

A third Democratic candidate, businessman Marcellus Crews, is also scheduled to join them.

Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones, left, and Justin Pearson, right, were expelled from the Tennessee House last year but have returned to office. Pearson is scheduled to speak in Anne Arundel County Tuesday. Photo by John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout.

Tennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson (D) will give the keynote address at the summit Tuesday, titled, “Towards A Sustainable And Equitable Future.” The event is taking place at the BWI Westin Hotel.

Pearson and his Democratic colleague, Rep. Justin Jones, were kicked out of the legislature last year for violating the House chamber’s rules on decorum to protest the lack of action by lawmakers on gun violence. The Republican-led chamber voted to remove them because Pearson and Jones used a megaphone to lead chants with a crowd in the House gallery.

The expulsion made national headlines and Pearson was reappointed six days later to his seat representing Memphis. He then won a special election to retain his seat.

Also, during the energy summit, about 10 of the 22 Democratic candidates running for the 3rd District seat are slated to participate in a forum.

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: Shaken not stirred, an AIPAC counterpoint in CD-3, the gloves come off about the training wheels staying on