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Congressman David Trone discusses his campaign, Senate aspirations with MSU's The Spokesman

David Trone, U.S. Representative currently campaigning for the Maryland U.S. Senate Seat.
MSU Spokesman
David Trone, U.S. Representative currently campaigning for the Maryland U.S. Senate Seat.

From HBCU funding to the November election, Trone lays out his goals for the future of the nation.

As the time for Marylanders to cast their early votes next month nears, Election Day is just around the corner. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Rep. David Trone (D-6th) are the most prominent names in a field of 10 candidates facing off for the Democratic nomination for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat, replacing Ben Cardin.

The primary election will take place on May 14, though early voting begins Thursday and runs through May 9. The Democratic nominees will face the Republican nominee on Nov. 5 in the general election. Political activist Robin Ficker and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan are the best known of seven Republican candidates.

Trone is best known for serving as a congressman in Maryland’s 6th district. Before becoming a politician, Trone worked primarily as a businessman. In 1991, Trone co-founded popular wine and spirit retailer Total Wine & More with his brother Robert Trone.

Trone and his campaign team visited Morgan State University Thursday. There, he met with university officials, including President David Wilson. He agreed to sit down with The Spokesman to discuss the current state of the campaign.

Here is an edited transcript of the interview.

Q: It’s been reported that you…have put more of your own money into your campaign for Senate than anyone else in our country’s history. How has your navigation of your business ventures and personal funds gotten you to this point in your political career?

A: Yeah, I think one thing that people really like and respect in this election has been the fact that we’re willing to finance a campaign ourselves largely. And that’s, I think, really going over well, because people realize, that means Exxon, doesn’t have a say in what you want to do. And they all know that Exxon is not trying to help us with the environment. And we got to get the environment right or we got nothing. And they realize that Pfizer doesn’t want to help us on lower drug costs. They want higher drug costs. People really appreciate the fact that we have that independence from all these big, multinational corporations, which are all part of the special interests piece, the PACs, the lobbyists, that really infiltrate the American political system. It’s actually about $1.9 billion every two years of PACs and lobbyists’ money to just Congress, taking them to Miami and the Bahamas, direct contributions. And that’s why we have a dysfunctional system.

That’s why we can’t get things done, like, you know, fixing immigration, fixing our environment, doing better for education, supporting HBCUs, and hav[ing] more money for those type[s] of things. Because they’re always have too much of an unfair voice.

Q: It seems like you’re definitely a numbers guy. And you definitely come from that business perspective. How do you think that you’re going to bring those ideas to the Senate? And how does it separate you from some of your opponents? 

A: I think business people coming into public office is a really good thing because they understand real life. They understand meeting the payroll on Friday, they understand the challenges people have to go [through], and they have not [just been in a career as] public servants. I think what we need [in the] government is more folks that are teachers, electricians, you know, business people, less lawyers, maybe journalists, that’s good. But folks that have lived another life than just public service because I don’t think you’re living in reality when you’re just doing one job after another job and building your way up the ladder in public service. I think people like that and having a head for numbers is a big win.

There’s a lot of money, and we’re trying to help drive the money into the areas that people need. So the areas I really focus on are areas like addiction. I lost my nephew to fentanyl. Addiction runs in my family. It’s a mental illness that runs in my family. [The U.S.] lost 110,000 folks last year to overdoses. 80% were fentanyl, and 50,000 folks last year to suicide – 20,000 from suicide by gun. So those are two big areas that I’m really focused on.

Q: Should you be elected into the U.S. Senate, how will you ensure that HBCU funding continues to rise as it has in past years?

A: We’ve got to realize what’s most important in the world, and that’s really taking a long term view. So many folks in Washington are short term, I call it ST versus LT. And in business, I always try and think LT. It’s hard, but it means getting the best people that are the most expensive, the best technology, the best real estate, that’s how you win in business. But in this job, we win by education if we get the best educated country. HBCUs play a huge role in that. The historic role that these colleges play is, well there’s four here in Maryland, I visited all four. We’ve taken the time to learn about their different strengths. And business schools, entrepreneurship, you know, here are your schools of engineering. I mean, all those things are just tremendous strengths. And we got to build on those and leverage those, we invest in our people. And don’t forget our environment, because if we don’t get the environment right, the water, the air, we got nothing.

So we got to keep investing [while] also trying to change and help the rest of the world, because it’s places like Asia, Africa, South America, where they’re going through a fossil fuel revolution. And we need to bring them our technology for solar, for wind, for nuclear and help them go and skip some of those fossil fuels and have a cleaner environment.

Q: Let’s just go back to the situation that happened during the budget hearing in the House last month. You had said an unusual word, and most reasonable people have accepted your apology, of course, but there are those that would wonder how you’d come to use that word in the first place and what you’ve learned from that experience. Could you speak to that? 

A: No, I appreciate that question. We were in a budget hearing, and I was railing against the Republicans’ tax policies. They refused to raise taxes and [I] meant to use the word bugaboo, which fit perfectly into the discussion. And [I] instead used a racist term. Didn’t know I used it, the woman from my office of managing budgets, she didn’t know it either. And she and I are good friends. I got back to the office and they said, “Hey, you said a different word.” I said “So what is that word then?” I had no idea what it meant. Not a clue. I mispronounced the word. They explained it to me. I said, “Wow, we got to take ownership. We got to apologize.” It’s a terrible word. We apologized immediately and have apologized continuously and it’s a word that should never be used.

Q: What would you want college students in particular to understand about your campaign and who you are as you are running for the Maryland seat for U.S. Senate?

A: Realize that I wasn’t born successful. I was born with not very much. But I built my own success just like [college students] themselves can build their own success through hard work and good ideas. Only in this country can you do that. Because I’ve been so lucky, I’m a cancer survivor, and God’s given me an opportunity to be on a mission. And I am on a mission, a mission about helping our country in addiction, mental illness, helping drive education, drive medical research, and all those things and the ability not to take money from corporate America, not to take the special interest money gives me a unique edge to be able to do things the right way and support progressive policies like term limits. I love term limits, Supreme Court (should have) term limits of 18 years. Each President appoints two members of the court (in) year one (and) year three. [I support] financial guidelines for a Supreme Court, members of Congress should never be allowed to trade individual stocks, [they] should be gone. Members of Congress shouldn’t become lobbyists.

All those things, we get the money out – the dirty, dark money out, those things are controversial. I’m a change agent. But I also get stuff done. And I’m the fourth most bipartisan, fourth out of 535 as far as getting stuff done. I’m ranked number one in Maryland, I’m the most effective member in Maryland, three times more effective than number two, which means I get stuff done. Because I show up. I listen, I meet with people. And I’m here for the right reasons. People appreciate that. They can sense it, they can feel it.