Baltimore Political Operative on Trial over Claim He Tried to Suppress Black Vote

Eric Shawn, Fox News, April 30, 2012

Julius Henson, a legendary Baltimore campaign consultant who’s been involved in politics for decades, took his seat Monday morning at the defense table to face trial on accusations that he tried to suppress the black vote with shady robo-calls.

In an unusual case of allegedly deceptive and criminal political strategy, the 63-year-old veteran operative is accused of sending out a political robo-call—an automated telephone call—to neighborhoods with predominantly black voters in the Maryland 2010 general election. The call, according to prosecutors, wrongly implied the Democratic candidate for governor had already won.

The calls went out to over 110,000 Democratic voters, and the recorded voice said: “Hello. I’m calling to let everybody know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We’re okay. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you.”

Henson was a political consultant to the campaign of former Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich in his race against the Democratic incumbent, Martin O’Malley. Prosecutors say the call’s goal was to discourage black Democrats from showing up at the polls by fooling them into thinking there was no need to vote.

When Fox News asked Henson if he had indeed tried to suppress the black vote, he was emphatic: “Absolutely not.”

{snip}

“They just want to sensationalize it, emotionalize it and say, ‘Oh Julius Henson didn’t want black people to vote.’ Okay, I’ve gotten more black people elected in this state, period, ever. And as a matter of fact, I’m known for getting turnout up. That is why the Ehrlich people hired me in the first place.”

As he arrived at court for the start of the trial, Henson’s lawyer, Edwards Smith, Jr., told Fox News that his client is “not guilty.”

Smith said the purpose of the call was “to bring out votes,” and that “the evidence will show that the list had no race attached to it, in fact there were plenty of whites, Chinese and others” who were called.

{snip}

The call was not successful. O’Malley, the Democrat, went on to win re-election and remains Maryland’s governor.

Julius Henson

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