2 consultants at odds over Bell

The Political Game

Campaign: In a battle over work from the City Council president, Julius Henson claims political strategist Larry S. Gibson is behind a violation Henson received for not maintaining a rental property. The mayor denies it.

July 06, 1999|By Ivan Penn and Gerard Shields | Ivan Penn and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

POLITICAL consultant Julius Henson, who is known for his tough, abrasive style, is claiming that he's a target of a political assault.

Henson, who is facing charges of failing to properly maintain one of his rental properties, said he has become a target of political strategist Larry S. Gibson in the fight for work from mayoral hopeful Lawrence A. Bell III's campaign.

Bell hired Henson as a general consultant for his campaign in February. Henson said Gibson, who ran Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's campaigns, also has been a consultant for Bell, which the candidate has regularly denied.

Henson claims that Gibson, a close friend and political ally of the city's housing commissioner, tried to oust him from Bell's payroll by having his property cited for housing violations.

Gibson did not return telephone calls.

Schmoke dismissed Henson's allegation, saying, "If a notice was sent out, it was generated in the routine course of business."

Henson appears to be taking it well, though.

"It's a fair tactic," he said.

Businessman to be cautious on supporting candidates

The effort to draft Kweisi Mfume to run for mayor is taking its toll on some key supporters, and some movers and shakers on the political scene are still reeling from it.

Developer Otis Warren, attending City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III's fund-raiser June 29, said he won't make any more hasty judgments in giving his support to candidates.

Warren was among those who led the effort to draw Mfume into the mayoral contest. When Mfume announced in May that he would not run, it left politicos and business leaders wondering who they would support.

It also meant that Mfume supporters had to find a way to mend fences with the candidates who were running or looking to run -- and who they had said were not mayoral caliber.

"That really hurt me," Warren said. "I can't do that, again. I'm a businessman. I've got a business to run."

Kaufman makes complaint, again alleging discrimination

Stop the presses. A. Robert Kaufman has filed a discrimination complaint.

The City Wide Coalition candidate, who filed a discrimination lawsuit last month against WEAA-FM radio for not allowing him to be host of a show, is accusing the Baptists Ministers Conference for Baltimore and Vicinity of excluding him from last week's forum because of his race.

Kaufman, who is white, told the Baltimore Community Relations Commission that only black candidates were invited to the forum. He made a similar complaint to the Baltimore Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and also made a call to national NAACP President Kweisi Mfume.

The Rev. Carl L. Washington, president of the ministers conference, said Kaufman was not excluded from the forum because of his race, but because the ministers don't consider him a viable candidate. Washington made it a point to step onto the church steps before to the forum and speak with the media, who also were excluded.

Washington expressed regrets that City Councilman Martin O'Malley, who is white, was not invited to the forum. O'Malley, of Northeast Baltimore, joined the mayoral race after the invitations to the forum were sent out. Washington said the group is interested in hearing what O'Malley has to say.

"A friend of mine told me he is a forthright man," Washington said.

Several black neighborhood activist candidates, including William Edward Roberts Sr. and Phillip A. Brown Jr., also were not invited to the forum.

Candidates take shots at Bell during public forum

In recent voter polls, City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III has appeared to benefit from his 12 years in office.

Political strategists, such as city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, believe Bell looks perched to succeed Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke because voters recognize his name and are comfortable that his time has come.

But Bell became the punching bag at the first open public forum for mayoral candidates June 29 at the First English Lutheran Church in Roland Park, sponsored by the New Democratic Club.

Former East Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes took the first swipe, chastising Bell for waiting to enter the race until his second cousin, Kweisi Mfume, had bowed out.

Then Kaufman ridiculed Bell for failing to back his call for the city to run an auto and home insurance cooperative. Phillip A. Brown Jr. then took his four-minute introduction to remind voters that Bell has been the second-highest elected officer in the city government that everyone is complaining about.

Bell didn't seem wounded by the jabs, often smiling at his opponents' cracks. Carol Arscott of the Gonzales/Arscott Communications Inc. political consulting firm said Bell can expect more of the same from his mayoral opponents until the Sept. 14 primary.

"He's perceived as the front-runner," Arscott said. "The job of the challengers is to knock him off his perch."

Mayoral candidates invited to appear on Mfume TV show

Exclusive! Exclusive! Kweisi Mfume is back in the mayor's race.

But this time, the former West Baltimore congressman and former city councilman is not being touted as a candidate. Mfume is the host of a weekly talk show called "The Bottom Line" and has invited the mayoral candidates to appear on the show and discuss their ideas for the city.

Mfume was considered the potential front-runner for six months as a committee of 250 city, state, business and community leaders tried to draft him. But he stayed with the nation's oldest civil rights group, the NAACP.

The NAACP will hold its candidates forum -- considered one of the traditional mayoral heavyweight events -- on July 26.

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