Former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks is once again on Maryland’s voting rolls, making the disgraced ex-lawmaker technically eligible to be re-elected to his old job if he wins the primary election this month.
Oaks, who pleaded guilty to a felony in March and is awaiting sentencing, said becoming a state senator again was not the reason he registered to vote last week. But he did not explain why he did.
The longtime Democrat who has represented the West Baltimore district since 1995 repeated in a brief interview that if he wins the June 26 primary, he would decline the nomination. His sentencing on federal corruption charges is scheduled for July and federal guidelines call for him to receive eight to 10 years in prison.
Oaks’ decision to again become a voter complicates the already contentious and racially charged contest for the Senate’s 41st District in Northwest Baltimore. Oaks is on the ballot with two other candidates: political newcomer J.D. Merrill and former Del. Jill P. Carter, who was appointed to finish Oaks’ term this year.
The race between Carter, who is black, and Merrill, who is white, has become increasingly negative and barbed with attacks that Carter’s supporters call racially tinged. Merrill, who is backed by several prominent black leaders, says the ads attack Carter’s record in Annapolis.
Before he rejoined the voting rolls on June 5 — the last day to register — Oaks was not qualified to be a candidate, according to elections officials.
As a newly registered voter, he is qualified — even though he is facing a lengthy prison sentence and says he does not want the job. If he wins and refuses the nomination, the district’s Democratic Central Committee will pick a replacement.
Oaks resigned from the state Senate in March just hours before he pleaded guilty in the federal corruption case against him. Oaks stood accused of fraud, bribery and obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty to a pair of felony fraud charges.
A few weeks later, he revoked his voter registration in an effort to invalidate his candidacy and get his name off the ballot. Maryland’s highest court ruled earlier this month that it was too late to reprint ballots.