A campaign consultant accused of using Election Day robocalls to suppress black voter turnout began sharing his account of the failed campaign to reinstate former Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
Julius Henson, a campaign consultant for Ehrlich, began testifying at his own trial Friday afternoon, saying the Republican's campaign officials were preoccupied with turning out black voters and hired him to do so.
“They wanted to pigeonhole me into African American outreach,” said Henson, who is black. “’Go work with the black people.’”
A longtime Baltimore political consultant known for his work with Democratic candidates, Henson said he proposed Ehrlich reach out to his conservative base, but campaign operatives were more interested in courting black voters.
“They wanted to go in another direction and say let's take our base for granted,” Henson said.
Henson is charged with using the 2010 automated calls to influence or attempt to influence a voter's decision to go to the polls through the use of fraud and publishing campaign material without an authority line.
The robocalls went out on the evening of Election Day to about 110,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George's County -- two jurisdictions with high percentages of black voters. They told supporters of O'Malley and President Barack Obama to relax because they had won.
Henson has said he did not believe the calls were illegal and weren't meant to suppress the vote.
Ehrlich's campaign manager, Paul Schurick, was convicted last year on the same charges Henson now faces.
Schurick testified at his trial that he had rejected a voter suppression strategy crafted by Henson, but did approve the robocall.
Earlier on Friday, jurors heard testimony from Greg Massoni, an Ehrlich aide who served as press secretary to the governor.
Massoni, now a consultant at King and Spalding law firm Washington, told jurors about the decision to hire Henson.
“On occasion Mr. Henson would mention keeping the black vote diminished, but it was always dismissed by the campaign,” Massoni said.
Henson spoke briefly about the case after proceedings wrapped up for the day, telling reporters outside the courthouse he believed he would be acquitted.
“No one looks forward to going to court,” Henson said. “But, you know, this day is going to come and go and it will be OK.”
Henson's testimony is expected to continue Monday morning.