For Henson, it's time for a robo campaign

Candidate should let robotics work for him in quest for Senate seat

Julius Henson

Political consultant Julius Henson, is president of the Berea Eastside Neighborhood Association, Inc., one of the most influential in Baltimore. Having emerged from jail last year on a conviction in an election fraud case, he is running to unseat long-time State Sen. McFadden, who was also at the meeting. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun / October 28, 2013)

Hyperchutzpahism is a condition in which an overactive chutzpah gland produces an excessive amount of chutzpah, causing people to be extremely audacious, if not obnoxious, and to cut in line at TCBY. The word, which I just made up, is taken from the Greek (hyper, for overly) and the Yiddish (chutzpah, for boldness or self-confidence.)

I'm not a doctor, but I think this is what afflicts Julius Henson, the political operative — hyperchutzpahism. He can't help himself. He's chutzpadik, and not in a good way.

Henson was convicted, jailed and fined for his role in the infamous "relax robocall" to suppress votes in the 2010 Maryland general election. He was involved in automated telephone messages that went to thousands of people in communities with predominantly black voters, telling them to "relax" and stay home in the final hours of the election.

That was then. This is now, and now Henson is a candidate for a state Senate seat.

That's chutzpah.

Another man, particularly a black man, might have been so ashamed of what he did that he never would have raised his head in politics again. The laws against such schemes go back to the great struggle to extend civil rights to the descendants of slaves and other people of color.

But obviously, getting involved in such an offensive and illegal plan did not bother Henson. He's shown no public remorse.

Not that anyone should be surprised by that.

Everything about Henson has been in-your-face, and consistently so over many years as a political operative in Baltimore.

So now he's campaigning against Sen. Nathaniel McFadden for the Democratic nomination in the city's 45th District.

But there's a catch: the possibility that Henson's candidacy constitutes a violation of his probation from the robocall case.

Turns out that the sentencing judge, Emanuel Brown of the Baltimore Circuit Court, ordered Henson to serve three years' probation and "not work in any political campaign paid/volunteer during probation."

That condition serves two purposes: It punishes Henson, keeping him away from the seasonal livelihood he obviously relishes, and it keeps him from playing dirty tricks on candidates or voters. No robocalls.

I like what the judge did. It's as if he issued issued a protective order for the next election. Henson has to stay away.

But here's another catch: The judge's order might not prohibit Henson from running for office.

Henson and his new lawyer, Russell Neverdon, will argue this week that while it's one thing to tell a political operative he can't manage a campaign, it's quite another to tell him he can't run for office. And besides, they say, that goes beyond the judge's order.

I agree. Henson should win this. Prohibiting him from running for office is not only a stretch of Brown's conditions, it's probably unconstitutional.

Still, even if Henson wins, there are lots of questions here. For instance:

Is running for office the same as "working" in a political campaign? Can shaking hands, giving stump speeches and participating in debates be said to be "work" in the conventional sense?

I think it is. So that would create problems for Henson, with campaign "work" being a probation violation.

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