Trump, security and campaign spending hot topics at Maryland 6th forum

From left, David Trone (D), George Gluck (G), Amie Hoeber (R) and Kevin Caldwell (L) discussed anti-Semitism and BDS Tuesday. Photo by Jared Foretek.

The four candidates vying for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District seat talked Israel, health care and gun violence Tuesday night at Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg.

Democrat David Trone, Republican Amie Hoeber, Green Party nominee George Gluck and Libertarian Kevin Caldwell all made the case for why they should succeed outgoing Rep. John Delaney (D) in representing the district, which snakes from Montgomery County to the West Virginia border. The forum was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Here are four takeaways:

For Trone, all Trump, all the time

Even though Republican Hoeber, a former undersecretary for the Army and Trone’s main opponent, is no huge fan of the President Donald Trump, Trone made the president, not Hoeber, the target of many of his attacks.

When moderator Meredith Weisel asked about an increase in anti-Semitic crimes across the region, Trone — a co-owner of Total Wine & More — pointed to Trump, who opinion polls show is deeply unpopular in Maryland.

“The real problem is leadership,” Trone said. “We have a leadership in Washington that encourages the nastiness, the bigotry. We’ve seen President Trump lash out at women, we’ve seen President Trump lash out and not believe Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford,” Trone said, referring the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. “We’ve seen President Trump denigrate Muslims. We’ve seen President Trump separate parents from their children at the border. … That’s not the America I signed up for.”

In answering a question about how to improve access to health care, Trone defended the Affordable Care Act and quickly moved to the administration’s repeated repeal attempts. “The Trump administration is working to tear that all down,” he said.

Hoeber sells her national security experience

Hoeber described herself up as an anti-tax moderate, but more than anything focused her answers on her experience in national security. She said she has devoted her entire career to “protecting this country from threats outside and inside.”

Regarding school shootings, she said her experience gives her an understanding of what it takes to design secure schools. Beyond calling for better enforcement of current gun regulations, Hoeber, a self-proclaimed Second Amendment supporter, spoke about fortifying schools and houses of worship.

“We need to lock the doors, and I will note that in Sandy Hook and several of the other school shootings, the doors were not locked,” she said, going on to talk about a device that would scan for metal as people enter a building.

And when discussing Israel’s right to defend itself, she said she had an intimate understanding of — and appreciation for — its Iron Dome system from her time in the Pentagon.

Caldwell needles Trone over funding

It’s no secret that Trone, the wine store mogul, has spent a lot of money on his candidacy — $14 million, according to the most recent campaign filing.

Caldwell, a former Army sergeant, repeatedly brought up front-runner Trone’s spending, saying that Trone and the two major parties couldn’t represent their middle-class constituents.

“We are just middle-class citizens,” he said. “For decade after decade, the ruling class, the establishment of D.C., both Democrats and Republicans, have bent their wills not to serve you, but they’ve bent them to serve their true masters from Wall Street to K Street. Can we not in the 6th District have common citizens who represent our interest, the actual people’s interest? Because they’re not. I’m not a millionaire.”

Gluck breaks from the field on BDS

Without coming out in favor of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, Green party candidate George Gluck did come out against Republican efforts to stifle the movement, including Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order.

The other candidates said they supported anti-BDS legislation, but Gluck — who said he left the Democratic party during the Clinton administration over NAFTA — said anti-BDS measures could be the start of a “slippery slope.”

“Israel has an absolute right to defend itself,” he said. “I think it’s a slippery slope when we try to tell people they can’t boycott. We’ve seen boycotts help people throughout the world. … I think we cannot silence speech and boycotts.”

State of the race

Trone looks like a heavy favorite to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Rep. John Delaney (D) Delaney topped Republican Amie Hoeber in 2016 by more than 16 percentage points, when they ran for the seat.

Trone has tried to use Trump’s deep unpopularity in the state against Hoeber. A Goucher College poll in April pegged the president’s approval rating in Maryland at 25 percent. Add in Trone’s significant financial advantage (according to the most recent filings, Hoeber’s campaign has raised $833,225) and prominent forecasters predict an easy victory for the Democrat.

Election forecasters at give Trone a 99.3 percent chance of victory, while the Cook Political Report lists the district as safely Democratic.

Early voting in Maryland is underway.

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