A call for ci­vil­ity be­fore tak­ing swipes

6th Dis­trict can­di­dates trash each other in mass mail­ings

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - MARY­LAND BY PAUL SCHWARTZ­MAN paul.schwartz­man@wash­post.com

At a fo­rum late last month, the can­di­dates vy­ing to suc­ceed Rep. John De­laney in Mary­land spoke of the im­por­tance of bi­par­ti­san­ship and restor­ing ci­vil­ity to po­lit­i­cal dis­course.

Yet the cam­paign of Demo­crat David Trone and a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee back­ing Repub­li­can Amie Hoe­ber have each sent 6th Dis­trict vot­ers mass mail­ers de­pict­ing the op­pos­ing can­di­date in less than civil terms.

“You’re David Trone and No­body Likes You,” read one mailer from the pro-Hoe­ber PAC that ac­cused the Po­tomac businessman of, among other things, “try­ing to buy fa­vor with politi­cians.”

“Secret File of Amie Hoe­ber,” read the mailer sent by the Trone cam­paign, which high­lighted past state­ments that in­di­cated the na­tional se­cu­rity consultant’s sup­port for the use of “deadly chem­i­cal weapons.”

The joust­ing re­flects the stakes in what is be­lieved to be Mary­land’s most com­pet­i­tive con­gres­sional race, one in which Trone, 62, the co-founder of To­tal Wine & More, casts him­self as a prag­ma­tist bent on help­ing Democrats win a House ma­jor­ity and counter Pres­i­dent Trump.

De­laney, a Demo­crat who has held the seat since 2012, is leav­ing Congress in Jan­uary to run for pres­i­dent.

Hoe­ber, 76, a former Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pointee, is run­ning as an anti-tax con­ser­va­tive who would help the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­serve and im­ple­ment poli­cies to strengthen the econ­omy.

In a dis­trict stretch­ing from Demo­cratic precincts in Mont­gomery County to the more con­ser­va­tive coun­ties of western Mary­land, Hoe­ber is more likely to pub­licly in­voke pop­u­lar Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan than Trump, even as she says she would vote for the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion.

It was the prospect of re­elect­ing Ho­gan that in­spired Bah­man Teimourian, a plas­tic sur­geon and a reg­is­tered in­de­pen­dent, to show up for early vot­ing at the Po­tomac Com­mu­nity Cen­ter on Wed­nes­day. Teimourian also voted for Hoe­ber, say­ing that he had a neg­a­tive im­pres­sion of Trone, based on mail­ings he re­ceived.

“Wasn’t he in­dicted or some­thing?” Teimourian asked. (The an­swer is yes, nearly 30 years ago, on busi­ness-re­lated charges, though the charges were dropped).

In in­ter­views, most vot­ers at the com­mu­nity cen­ter said they were sup­port­ing Trone, un­de­terred by months of at­tacks from op­po­nents who have pil­lo­ried him for self-fund­ing his cam­paign.

“It shows he’s not look­ing for any­thing in re­turn,” said Nikki Miller, 64, of Bethesda. “He rep­re­sents what he be­lieves in and is not look­ing for com­pen­sa­tion.”

Trone’s per­sonal for­tune gives him a sub­stan­tial ad­van­tage in a race in which he has in­vested nearly $16 mil­lion of his own money — funds that have helped him fi­nance tele­vi­sion and ra­dio ads, mass mail­ings and a ro­bust field op­er­a­tion.

Yet Trone also knows that his wealth does not guar­an­tee suc­cess. Two years ago, he spent $13 mil­lion to run in Mary­land’s neigh­bor­ing 8th Dis­trict and lost to then-state Sen. Jamie Raskin in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Al­though Hoe­ber’s cam­paign has far less fi­nan­cial re­sources, her hus­band, Mark Ep­stein, a Qual­comm ex­ec­u­tive, has con­trib­uted at least $1.1 mil­lion to two po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees, one of which paid for a recent anti-Trone mail­ing that in­cluded a pho­to­graph of his face sur­rounded by float­ing $100 dol­lar bills.

Asked about the anti-Trone mail­ers, Paul Elling­ton, Hoe­ber’s cam­paign man­ager, de­flected re­spon­si­bil­ity, say­ing they were pro­duced by the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, Value in Elect­ing Women. Hoe­ber’s hus­band has given at least $600,000 to the PAC since March.

Mered­ith Lesher, the PAC’s trea­surer, re­ferred ques­tions to its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Julie Con­way, who did not re­spond to an email.

Elling­ton de­scribed Trone as a “for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent be­cause of his money,” but pre­dicted Hoe­ber will win the elec­tion be­cause Repub­li­cans in western Mary­land coun­ties such as Wash­ing­ton and Gar­rett “are com­ing home to the party” to sup­port Trump’s agenda. Trump’s ap­proval rat­ing among Mary­land Repub­li­cans is 75 per­cent.

Trone touts him­self as an “in­de­pen­dent thinker” whose busi­ness suc­cess demon­strates his abil­ity to be a “change agent.” At the recent fo­rum, spon­sored by the Jewish Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Coun­cil of Greater Wash­ing­ton, he stressed the im­por­tance of coun­ter­ing Trump.

“Have you ever seen a big­ger cir­cus than what we have in Congress?” he asked. “And the White House is the big tent.”

Trone’s cam­paign has de­picted Hoe­ber as mis­lead­ing vot­ers about his cam­paign. “Shame­ful Lies,” reads one mailer, the words ap­pear­ing over the im­age of the anti-Trone fliers in a garbage can. Jerid Kurtz, Trone’s cam­paign man­ager, said that Hoe­ber’s cam­paign set the tone by at­tack­ing Trone, and that his team was re­spond­ing in kind.

“They’re des­per­ate,” Kurtz said in an email.

In the race’s clos­ing days, Trone’s cam­paign has cir­cu­lated a 2016 video of a can­di­dates fo­rum at which Hoe­ber, who was run­ning against De­laney, said she would sup­port leg­is­la­tion to end birthright cit­i­zen­ship. Trump has said in recent days that he would like to make such a change by ex­ec­u­tive or­der, a move that most le­gal schol­ars say would be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Asked for Hoe­ber’s po­si­tion on end­ing birthright cit­i­zen­ship, Elling­ton said she “ques­tions the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity” of a pres­i­dent tak­ing such ac­tion. Arelis Hernán­dez con­trib­uted to this re­port.


The cam­paign of Demo­crat David Trone dis­trib­uted this mailer about Repub­li­can Amie Hoe­ber, an anti-tax con­ser­va­tive.


The front of a mailer dis­trib­uted by De­fend­ing Main Street SuperPAC on David Trone, co-founder of To­tal Wine & More.

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