Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Congressional candidate David Trone—who famously spent $13 million of his own money on an unsuccessful bid for Congress last year—said Sunday afternoon he doesn’t plan to do that again on his new campaign for the 6th District seat.

Instead, the multi-millionaire businessman, who co-owns the national alcohol retailer Total Wine & More, said his campaign will accept contributions from individuals.

“My wife and I are hopeful we don’t have to spend as much money, that’s for sure,” Trone said when asked what he learned from his second-place finish to Rep. Jamie Raskin in last year’s District 8 Democratic primary. “We’re going to raise money the old-fashioned way—$25 at a time—just like President Obama did, just like Bernie Sanders did, with lots of meet and greets, lots of consumer, voter contact and we’re going to really work hard to get out there and I think that’s going to make a difference.”

He added that he would accept contributions up to $2,700—the maximum an individual can give a federal candidate—but he vowed to continue his pledge from his previous campaign not to accept any money from PACs, lobbyists or corporations.

“We’re working on all kinds of events that are focused on those $25 [contributions],” Trone said. “Our belief is that we’re going to have more folks writing $10, $15 checks to us than all the other candidates combined, without question.”

Other candidates pursuing the 6th District seat include Dels. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) and Aruna Miller (D-Darnestown), as well as state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Silver Spring). Democrat Andrew Duck, of Frederick County, has filed to run for the seat.

Republicans considering a run for the seat include Amie Hoeber, of Potomac; Kelly Schulz, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation secretary; and former Montgomery County Del. Matt Mossburg.

Trone spoke with reporters Sunday afternoon in front of a large John Deere combine that had been converted into a slide for children at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown. The stop at the orchard came after a busy first weekend for Trone, who announced last week he’d pursue Rep. John Delaney’s seat in a district that stretches from Potomac through Frederick County and includes the Western Maryland panhandle. Delaney announced last month that he is running for president.

David Trone speaks with Butler’s Orchard owner Wade Butler before taking a tour of the Germantown farm on Sunday afternoon. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Trone scheduled stops in the Western Maryland towns of Oakland, Cumberland, Smithsburg and Hagerstown on Saturday, followed by a church service in Williamsport, a farm visit in Washington County and an ice cream social in Frederick on Sunday before arriving at Butler’s Orchard.

In a short speech at the orchard before taking questions from reporters, Trone emphasized his agricultural upbringing on a 200-acre farm in East Berlin, Pennsylvania, that went bankrupt.

He said his campaign will focus on improving infrastructure in the district, such as by reducing congestion on Interstate 270, finding solutions to the opioid epidemic and increasing funding to the National Institutes of Health. He also plans direct voter outreach—a possible change from his first campaign, when he flooded the radio and television airwaves with paid ads.

“We’ll be knocking on more doors than anybody,” Trone said. “One thing we learned on the farm is a heck of a work ethic. If you put in the time and you outwork everybody, you’re probably going to be OK.”

Trone had previously said he was considering a run for Montgomery county executive before announcing his run for the District 6 seat. He said Sunday he chose to pursue a seat in Congress because of the political turmoil at the national level. If he wins he could be a freshman congressman in the Democratic minority, but Trone said he believes the Democrats will take back the majority in 2018.

“We’re pretty convinced what’s happening in America is going to be a tsunami and we’re going to see House races all over the country that can turn the House [of Representatives] into a Democratic majority,” Trone said. “We’re working with the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] to make that happen.”

When asked if he considers himself a progressive, Trone responded that he is on social issues, but on economic ones, he said, “You can’t be for jobs and against employers.”

He added that he believes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour should be increased, but didn’t say if $15 per hour, the wage being pursued by progressives across the country, is the wage he’d support. He said the right number should protect small businesses and be indexed to inflation.

“There’s somewhere in there that’s a happy meeting ground,” Trone said.

Responding to critics who allege he is trying to buy a congressional seat, Trone said he and his wife, June, want to make people’s lives better.

“We don’t need a job,” Trone said. “We’re here to make a difference and make life better and that’s what we care about.”