David Trone Has Poured a Record-Breaking $42 Million Into His Senate Campaign

Rep. David Trone (X/@davidjtrone)
April 16, 2024

Rep. David Trone (D., Md.) made history Tuesday, becoming the largest self-funder in Senate primary history.

Trone, the co-owner of the multibillion-dollar liquor chain Total Wine & More, has loaned $41.7 million to his campaign for Maryland’s open Senate seat since launching his run in March 2023, Federal Election Commission filings show. The Maryland Democrat’s personal investment into his campaign far exceeds all prior Senate primary candidates, including the previous record holder, Illinois Democrat Blair Hull, who spent $29.6 million on his failed 2004 Senate primary bid.

Though Trone can depend on the seemingly unending funds from his Total Wine wealth to fuel his Senate campaign, his failure to attract contributors from traditional sources exposes underlying cracks in his ability to engage with the Democratic base. He has raised just $640,000 from contributors other than himself, a figure that includes a paltry $105,000 from grassroots, small-dollar donors.

Meanwhile, Trone’s top primary challenger, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, has raked in $6.2 million from outside contributors. A Baltimore Sun poll Tuesday shows Trone leading the field with 48 percent support among Democratic primary voters, while Alsobrooks trails behind with 29 percent support. Maryland’s primary election will be held May 14.

The same poll shows former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the expected Republican nominee for the state’s open Senate seat, beating both Trone and Alsobrooks in the general election. Maryland last elected a Republican senator in 1980.

Among Trone’s few outside contributors are the top executives of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, who have collectively donated $33,000. A Florida-based alcohol distributor with close ties to Total Wine, Southern Glazer’s is currently under an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly providing preferential pricing to certain large retailers such as Total Wine.

The FTC sued Total Wine as part of its investigation in October, alleging in court filings that Trone’s company "categorically refused" to search its internal files for information related to its inquiry into Southern Glazer’s.

Trone said he relinquished day-to-day control over Total Wine after he won his first term in the House in 2018. But his financial disclosures suggest otherwise. Trone reported in his 2022 disclosure that he serves as a director or manager of Total Wine and several of its subsidiaries.

Trone has had mixed results using his Total Wine wealth to fuel his political aspirations, and he has always struggled to garner significant financial support. He poured $13.4 million into his failed 2016 House primary campaign against Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.) after raising less than $7,000 from grassroots supporters.

Two years later, in 2018, Trone won his seat in the House after dumping another $17.9 million into his campaign. Trone raised $550,000 from outside contributors during that contest.