Best Display of Chutzpah

City Paper

Julius Henson is a political scoundrel for the history books. Having served many years as a ruthless campaign aide for Democratic candidates including, notably, his intimate pal, City Comptroller Joan Pratt, Henson in 2010 hired out to former Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich, who was seeking to reclaim his old post from Gov. Martin O’Malley. Although switching parties is anathema to party officials on the losing side, it’s perfectly OK in our political system. Henson, however, crossed the ethical line by drafting (on Ehrlich’s behalf) a coyly misleading robocall script designed to discourage African-American voters from going to the polls: “I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama [who was not up for election] have been successful . . . We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.” Needless to say, the announcement had no “authority line” identifying who was responsible for this act of voter suppression. Long-time Ehrlich aide Paul Schurick, who collaborated with Henson, was convicted of election fraud; Henson, tried by a separate jury, was convicted only of failing to include the authority line in his script—a misdemeanor. An O’Malley-appointed judge later sentenced Henson as if the fraud charge had stuck: 60 days in jail, 300 hours of community service, and three years of probation during which Henson was barred from getting involved in elections. (Henson actually served 30 days in jail.) Meanwhile State Attorney General Douglas Gansler won a $1 million civil judgment against Henson for the same election-day offenses. This year, in a supreme act of chutzpah, Henson ran for office as a Democrat, challenging the terms of his probation and seeking support from some of the very people whose votes he’d attempted to suppress in 2010. His signs were—and in many cases still are—plastered all over the predominantly black 45th legislative district, where Henson hoped to oust the somewhat doddering, loyal Democratic incumbent, State Senator Nathaniel McFadden. The Democratic establishment hit back with a glossy campaign piece reminding the electorate of Henson’s infamous robocall. In the end, McFadden was re-elected with 80 percent of the district’s vote. But do you think we’ve heard the last of Henson? Watch these pages.

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