David Trone is one of eight Democratic candidates seeking the party's nomination to represent Maryland's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The primary election is on June 26.
What do you see as the most pressing federal issue in Maryland and how, specifically, would you address that?
The opioid crisis is the most pressing issue facing Maryland, and I’ve outlined how I would handle that in Question 8.
Jobs are another critical issue for our state and our district. In order to create jobs, we need to do more to attract small businesses. They are great vehicles for hiring talent, and more than half of all workers in the United States being employed by small businesses. We should create a welcoming environment for small businesses because they create good, well-paying jobs.
Fairer tax incentives targeted toward small businesses — rather than just handouts to the largest corporations -- can help bring new jobs to the district. In Congress, I’ll support incentives like this for businesses to locate in less traditional areas.
We also need to invest in incubators and business development programs. ROOT in Frederick County is a great example. ROOT is centered around long-term growth and getting businesses to develop roots in Frederick County. This program also incentivizes companies to stay in Frederick, building a strong business climate that will create jobs and generate revenues for the county down the road.
Is the current federal spending level acceptable? Where do you think funding should be cut? Should it be increased for anything?
I have serious concerns about the recent tax plan passed by Trump and the Republican Congress. They borrowed money to give tax breaks to people and corporations that don’t need them.
These tax cuts will strangle our children and grandchildren with $1.5 trillion in debt. The effective tax rate that the wealthiest corporations paid before tax reform was about 24%, which is comparable to other developed nations. There was no need to lower it.
There are, however, investments we need to make that pay dividends in the long run. Alzheimer’s is a great example. We spend over $200 billion every year caring for people who suffer from this horrible disease. That number is only going to increase as the baby boomer generation enters old age.
But we spend just over $1 billion on funding NIH research on the disease. I’ve repeatedly called for doubling the budget of the NIH to fund research for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. It’s counterproductive not to invest the money now, when it could save our nations billions in the long run.
How should America’s infrastructure needs be prioritized and funded?
Our roads, bridges, and railway tracks are in desperate need of repair. We need an infrastructure bank so that states and municipalities can fund the projects and repairs they need. I support Congressman Delaney’s plan to fund the infrastructure bank with a one-time tax deal that allows corporations to return the $2 trillion held in offshore accounts to the U.S. at a reduced tax rate.
The infrastructure bank will provide desperately needed funding for our district and our state’s infrastructure projects. Maryland has fallen far behind some of our neighboring states in making forward-looking investments in transportation, and as a result, suburban Maryland has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Projects like the Corridor Cities Transitway, fixing I-270, or improving I-81 end up stalled for years. We need action.
One of our top priorities must be fixing I-270. Too many people have unreasonable commute times. Every hour that working parents spend commuting in traffic on I-270 is an hour that they could be spending having dinner with their family or helping their kids with homework.
Should federal policies on medical cannabis or recreational marijuana be changed? How?
I support decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medicinal use. The war on drugs has been a complete failure. Our prison population has increased by over 630% since 1972 and we spend over $80 billion a year on prisons. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have doubled down on these failed policies by instructing prosecutors to seek the harshest sentence possible for even the lowest level offenders.
With an administration that is determined to take us backward, the time for Congress to act is now. We should treat drug addiction as a public health issue not as a criminal one. And we need to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses so that judges can use their discretion to get low-level offenders into treatment programs rather than sending them to prison for decades.
What federal immigration policy changes would you support, and why?
Immigrants are an important part of American society and should have a path to citizenship. Trump’s mass deportations, travel bans, and rescinding of DACA and TPS protections are antithetical to American values.
We all benefit from the rich cultural and economic diversity immigrants bring to our community. Research shows that immigrants improve the quality of life for all Americans. Immigrants and their children founded over 40% of Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, Ebay, and Google, and these companies employ more than ten million people worldwide.
We also should reduce the amount of time it takes for applicants to receive work authorization. It shouldn’t take someone 10 years to get a visa if they have valuable job skills that can boost our economy. Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules should feel welcome in America.
Are guns in America over-regulated or under-regulated? What specific changes, if any, to gun laws would you support or oppose?
It’s long past time to pass reasonable gun-safety laws. Every year, there are over 30,000 gun-related deaths in America, and we must take action to stop the violence. In Congress, I’ll take on the NRA and work with both sides of the aisle to pass common-sense gun safety laws.
The first thing we need to do is reject political dark money. I will never take a penny from any special interest, and I’ll never back down when it comes to confronting the NRA and fighting for our families.
Among my top priorities for action is expanding background checks that keep guns out of the hands of people with a history of violence or serious mental illness by closing the gun-show and internet loopholes.
As part of a new effort to expand background checks, we must pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who have a history of domestic abuse. Violent people must not have easy access to firearms.
Most of the mass shootings our country has suffered have been young people who have been able to purchase military-style assault weapons. I also favor banning so called ‘bump stocks’ that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons.
How should America’s health care system be changed?
Quality healthcare is a basic human right, and the government’s job is to ensure that right for all Americans. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we’ve made great strides towards realizing the goal of universal health coverage for all Americans. Uninsured rates are at historic lows, and millions of people have gained coverage.
Donald Trump and the Republican Congress want to take us backward. Their plan would cause millions to lose their coverage and make healthcare more expensive for millions more. The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but we need to modify and build on it, not repeal it.
We also need to lower out of pocket costs. Too many people can only afford high deductible plans that discourage them from seeing a doctor when they need to because of high deductibles. This is not only wrong, but it’s costly. Studies show that dealing with medical problems sooner rather than later saves money. It’s particularly a problem for mental health services. Too many plans have higher co-pays and deductibles for these crucial services. I support stricter limits on deductibles and other out of pocket costs so that nobody has to think twice about getting the care they need.
Does Congress need to do more to address substance abuse in America?
The opioid epidemic is the most important issue facing the Sixth District right now. In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from overdoses – my nephew Ian was one of them. Every day that we don’t act hundreds of people will die.
I’ve put together a comprehensive plan to tackle the opioid crisis. You can read it at davidtrone.com/opioid-crisis
I propose investing $100 million over the next 10 years. That may seem like a lot of money, but the cost of inaction is that 750,000 people, which is roughly the entire population of Baltimore city, people will die over the next 10 years. Additionally, the crisis costs our nation $80 billion every year in medical care, imprisonment, and lost productivity.
My plan calls for teaching kids about the dangers of opioids from an early age. It also calls for restoring the DEA’s authority to crack down on suspicious drug shipments. Congress still has not restored this authority because too many politicians are in the pocket of big pharma.
I will vote to restore the DEA’s authority and I won’t be taking a dime from big pharma or any other PACs or lobbyists. I want to be your Congressman, not theirs.
Some residents in Frederick County are concerned about congressional districting and consider the 6th District to be gerrymandered. Do you support national redistricting reform? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why?
Gerrymandering has greatly distorted representation in Congress, leading to an ineffective system of government. And politicians in both parties are the direct cause of this dysfunction. It’s a fundamentally self-serving system for the politicians.
Maryland’s Sixth District has become a national embarrassment thanks to politicians in Annapolis. Their gerrymandering was so egregious that the Supreme Court is currently considering whether or not the district is constitutional.
I support an independent redistricting commission so that all voters are represented in government. Today, technology can let us take census data to create sensible boundaries. We are constitutionally required to redraw the lines every ten years, but we are not required to do it fairly. There is no excuse to not have an effective districting system that benefits all constituents.
What role should the federal government have in education?
The federal government must have an active role in education because it’s the most important investment that we can make in our future.
Universal pre-k is the first step. There’s no question that higher income kids start off with an advantage before Kindergarten even begins. One study shows that higher income kids will have heard 30 million more words by age three than their low-income peers.
I support Congressman Delaney’s Early Learning Act, which will create universal pre-k starting at age 4. The bill establishes an Early Education Trust Fund for the program, funded by increased efforts to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.
In too many places across the country, schools are funded by local property taxes, which puts schools in poor neighborhoods at a disadvantage. That’s why I support increases in Title I federal funding for schools that serve low-income students to help level the playing field.
We also need to consider innovative programs like community schools that provide programs like health and social services and community development. These schools are open outside of normal school hours and the programs are available to anyone who needs them.
What sets you apart from the other candidates in your primary?
Starting with one store, I built my company Total Wine & More, the largest private wine retailer in the United States. We have 6,000 employees nationwide.
We pay higher wages and benefits than our competitors. In most retail, 25% of employees are full-time and receive benefits while 75% are part-time and do not. In my business, 75% of our employees are full-time and get full benefits, which include retirement, PTO, and medical insurance.
Total Wine & More invest in our employees by paying for them to earn their GEDs and has a pilot program with the University of Maryland that offers a four-year college degree paid for by the company.
In 2002, a decade before Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, we offered partner benefits to same-sex couples. We have banned the box asking about criminal convictions on employment forms and hired over 100 returning citizens. We’re working with the ACLU to encourage others to follow our lead.
We’ve given to over 7,000 local charities including food banks, women’s shelters, organizations that support people with Autism, the Make a Wish Foundation, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, and others that play major roles in people’s lives.
How do you plan on working with people with views different from your own?
I’m a progressive Democrat, and I always have been. But I also believe that we need less partisanship. We need together work as Americans and focus. on getting stuff done.
I’ve always focused on working with others to get things done in business. Our job is to create win-win situations where both sides of the table win. And I believe that we need to approach politics that way as well.
Unfortunately, the special interests that don’t want compromise to have an outsized influence in Washington. Politicians depend on both sides take extreme positions in order to get these special interests to contribute to their campaigns.
This is why I’m not taking any money from special interest PACs or lobbyists. I don’t want to be their Congressman, I want to be yours. The only interests I will prioritize in Washington are those of Sixth District voters.
And when I talk with voters in the district, they say overwhelmingly that they are tired of partisan bickering and gridlock. They want leaders who are willing to come together to make progress on the important issues facing our country. And that’s exactly what I will do in Congress.