In Montgomery County, it’s always campaign season. And campaigns are never as polite was we pretend they were after they’re over. So today, as reports of “shots fired” rang out across the land, it was clear: 2018 is here, right now, courtesy of Councilmember George Leventhal and liquor baron David Trone. Two calm, cool, collected guys just havin’ a chat, dontcha know?
County Council member George Leventhal on Tuesday took aim at a possible opponent in the 2018 race for county executive—Total Wine & More co-founder David Trone—charging that the Potomac businessman’s political contributions in a state where his company operates amount to pay-for-play politics.
Trone didn’t take the comments lightly.
“George is running for office and everybody knows George is a fool, F-O-O-L, and a bully,” Trone said Wednesday. “Reckless and inaccurate comments from a career politician is why voters overwhelmingly passed term limits and George lost his job.”
Leventhal countered by comparing Trone to President Donald Trump. “He appears not to like to be held accountable for his record and he lashes out at his critics,” Leventhal said. “It would appear like President Trump is his role model.”
Trone and Leventhal are both Democrats who could square off in a June 2018 primary contest for county executive.
Leventhal has announced that he is running while Trone told Bethesda Beat earlier this month that he “is focused very heavily right now” on exploring a race for county executive in 2018. He has also begun polling residents on questions concerning the race. Trone ran unsuccessfully in the District 8 Democratic Congressional primary last year—a race in which he spent about $13 million self-funding his campaign.
Leventhal brought up pay-for-play politics in the liquor business while questioning Robert Dorfman, the incoming director of the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC), with other council members during a public meeting Tuesday. He then mentioned David and Robert Trone—the brothers who own the Total Wine chain of liquor stores.
“We certainly have a recent case study in Wisconsin where the Trone brothers made enormous political contributions in order to get access to the Wisconsin market for their product,” Leventhal said. “They’re indicative of just one trend in the industry of paying off politicians to get what they want. The Trones have done that over a long period of time.”
Each combatant clearly relished the opportunity to open up some whoopass on the other guy, and each went for familiar weakenesses of the other. Trone accused Leventhal of being a “bully” and Leventhal went straight for the Trump analogy.
For Leventhal, being seen going toe to toe with the big bad rich guy is a plus, because it gives him attention that fellow soon to be Council refugees Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner aren’t getting at that moment. But it’s a double-edged sword – if Leventhal comes off like the “Big Bad George” many have traditionally see him as, the encounters won’t end up as a net positive for him.
For Trone, responding when attacked is a staple move, but one that he too has to watch because unlike many other allegations, it does smell more than a little like Trump. And that’s not good around these parts.
But for now, at least, I think it works for him. He gets to show people he’s in the race and draw some attention he otherwise might not have gotten right now.
Was it entertaining? Yes. Did anyone score any significant points against the other guy? Nope. Did it hurt either candidate? Not at all, but as I note, both have to watch themselves in these encounters.
Next week: Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner jello wrestle. Woo hoo! Bring it on!