senate showdown

Trone’s money facing off against Alsobrooks’ endorsements in Maryland Senate primary

Trone began the primary with a substantial advantage, but Alsobrooks is getting help from key allies down the closing stretch

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images/ Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rep. David Trone (D-MD) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks

Rep. David Trone (D-MD) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks are locked in a highly competitive Democratic primary to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). But while the two candidates haven’t clashed much over Israel — with both expressing broad pro-Israel sentiment, mixed with occasional criticism of its war conduct on the campaign trail — Alsobrooks has taken a tougher stance in the race’s final stretch.

Alsobrooks said late last week that she would vote against future arms sales to Israel if the IDF invades Rafah, siding with President Joe Biden’s controversial position and marking a major policy shift right before Tuesday’s pivotal primary. 

The Prince George’s County executive told the Washington Post, “I do not support an invasion of Rafah and agree with President Biden if [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu does not change course, that the U.S. will need to withhold offensive weaponry.”

Alsobrooks’ campaign did not respond to Jewish Insider’s request for comment on the statement, which placed the Senate hopeful more in line with Biden than Cardin, a pro-Israel stalwart. Last week, Cardin critiqued Biden over his Rafah position, responding “that military assistance to support Israel’s security remains in the U.S. interest and should continue.”

A spokesperson for Trone referred JI to the congressman’s remarks at an event organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington at B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville last Tuesday. 

While the topic of a Rafah invasion did not come up, Trone has opposed conditioning aid to Israel. At the JCRC event, he voiced his opposition to a cease-fire deal that doesn’t include the release of hostages.

Jewish leaders in Maryland told JI that of the two Democratic candidates, Trone has done more outreach to the Jewish community during the primary contest, something they attribute to his personal connections to the community and his wife’s role on the board of the local JCRC. He wrote to rabbis across the state when launching his Senate bid seeking their support. 

Trone and Alsobrooks have both said they support a temporary cease-fire paired with the release of the hostages, and their respective critiques of Israel’s handling of the war have been similar to those of many Democratic candidates across the country. 

Still, they are also competing to represent Maryland, a state with one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country. While Alsobrooks has spoken out against any Rafah invasion by Israel, Trone has limited his criticism to speaking out against Netanyahu’s leadership and the civilian death toll in Gaza. 

Larry Hogan, who served two terms as governor, is expected to win the Republican primary on Tuesday against Robin Ficker, a disbarred attorney who is running to Hogan’s right. Ficker, who badly trails Hogan in polls, has embraced a pro-Trump message despite running in deep blue Maryland. 

Ficker has been unsuccessfully seeking higher office in Maryland since the 1970s, and has no serious path to winning a general election. But Republican primary voters opted against Hogan’s endorsed candidate for governor in 2022, instead going with former state Del. Dan Cox, a Trump-aligned Republican whom Hogan said he wouldn’t vote for. 

On the Democratic side, the Trone-Alsobrooks contest remains a toss-up. 

Trone is the billionaire Total Wine & More co-founder and longtime AIPAC donor, who left his role as CEO of the business when he entered Congress in 2019. The Democratic businessman is personally funding his Senate bid and has been blanketing the Maryland airwaves with campaign ads. 

According to AdImpact, the nonpartisan media tracking firm, Trone’s campaign and groups supporting him have spent over $60 million on advertising in this race.

That’s a far cry from the $5.6 million in ad spending that’s been tracked on behalf of Alsobrooks. 

Trone’s ability to finance his own campaign gave him an early advantage on Alsobrooks, who raised $2.1 million last quarter. His deep pockets also doubled as an electability argument; if he’s the nominee, the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm wouldn’t have to spend money in Maryland and could devote resources to more consequential contests. If Alsobrooks prevails, it’s likely that Democrats would have to spend some money in the deep-blue state.

One Democratic campaign source told JI that Trone’s financial advantage was impossible to ignore, but expressed confidence that Alsobrooks would be able to fundraise quickly if she wins the nomination. 

“Alsobrooks will raise whatever she needs. If she needs to raise $50 million, the money will come in. But David Trone can go on day one and put however many millions into his account, so he could immediately start slaughtering Hogan with attack ads,” the source said.  “Trone makes it a lot easier for the Democrats because he can say, ‘Go use your money to win a seat in Arizona and I’ll defend this seat by myself.'”

Alsobrooks, who if elected would be the first Black senator to represent Maryland, has tried to make up for lackluster fundraising numbers with endorsements from the state’s top Democratic leaders. She secured the backing of Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and nearly 200 other Maryland Democrats — many of whom appear in a widely aired television advertisement touting her candidacy. 

Five Black House Democrats endorsed Alsobrooks in late March after Trone accidentally used a racial slur at a congressional hearing. Trone apologized afterwards, saying he mistakenly used the slur.

Trone has the support of House Democratic leadership, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). He also won the backing of retiring Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).

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