Meet the Man Who Spent $12.7 Million on His Run for Congress … and Lost
Policy + Politics

Meet the Man Who Spent $12.7 Million on His Run for Congress … and Lost

Whoever said money can buy an election?

Whoever said money can buy an election?

It certainly isn’t David Trone, who spent a record $12.7 million of his own money on a House Democratic primary in Maryland, only to come in second on Tuesday night.

Trone, the multi-millionaire owner of Total Wine & More superstores, lost to Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator who is all but assured to win the general election in November.

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The district, located in some of the more affluent Washington, D.C., suburbs, had been represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen, but the seven-term incumbent opted out of running for reelection to seek the Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Barbara Mikulski.

While Trone got the silver medal, the bronze went to Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews, the wife of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

The open seat’s proximity to the expensive D.C. media market is part of the reason for primary’s large price tag, and while Raskin spent a total of $1.2 million and Matthews dished out $2.1 million, they couldn’t hold a candle to Trone.

His self-funding is somewhat akin to the campaign model espoused by Donald Trump, who has loaned his Republican presidential bid around $35 million to date. Trone similarly argued that self-financing and not seeking political contributions from special interest groups would help keep him independent in Washington.

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“I certainly could have raised enough money to fund a competitive campaign,” the first-time candidate told The Washington Post. “But the PACs, lobbyists and big dollar donors who give money would expect special attention. No matter how well-intentioned, those contributions and the candidates who take them are part of the reason Washington is broken.”

Trone isn’t the only self-funder to throw money at a political race and come up short.

In 1998, Democrat Phil Maloof loaned his campaign close to $10 million — or, adjusting for inflation, almost $15 million in today’s dollars — for the special election and general election races for a House seat in New Mexico, only to lose both contests, according to data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

West Virginia Democrat James Humphreys loaned his campaign roughly $10 million in current dollars in his failed bid against then-Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) for the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

And in 2014, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and his husband, Sean Eldridge, poured more than $4 million of their own money into Eldridge’s congressional campaign in New York State. Eldridge lost by 29 points.

Trone and his wife's estimated worth is between $17 million and $68.5 million, according to NPR, and as a co-founder of a wine and beer mega-store chain that has 150 locations in 21 states, he’s got plenty to fall back on.

Then again, he could always make another run for political office, possibly against incumbent Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.