Candidate is tough to pin down

Residency: Questions over where Elbert Henderson lives are no bar to his run for mayor.

October 11, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The Republican Party has had a sad history in city elections. More than 40 years have passed since a GOP candidate for mayor won City Hall.

In a city where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, this year's GOP mayoral candidate, Elbert "Ray" Henderson, has little chance of defeating Mayor Martin O'Malley in the Nov. 2 election, political experts say. O'Malley has more money, more volunteers, more visibility.

O'Malley also lives in Baltimore full time.

Henderson does not.

While Henderson, 54, meets the city's loosely enforced residency rules, he splits his time between two homes. He says he spends about two-thirds of his time in a Northwest Baltimore rowhouse that he shares with his elderly mother-in-law. The rest he spends in Woodbine in Carroll County with his wife.

"I sleep there at night sometimes," Henderson said of his Ulman Avenue rowhouse in Northwest Baltimore. And, he added, "I sleep in the house in Carroll County."

The city's residency rule requires candidates to live in the city for one year prior to the general election. To prove residency, a candidate must produce a driver's license or other photo identification displaying his or her address, said Barbara Jackson, the city's supervisor of elections.

She said the board demands more stringent proof only if a candidate's residency is challenged.

The most famous residency dispute in elections occurred in 1998 when an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge said Sen. Clarence W. Blount could not run for office from the 41st District because evidence showed he did not live there. But the Court of Appeals overturned the decision and ruled state legislators do not have to sleep in the electoral districts they represent - they just have to work for the people who live there. If they have two addresses, the court's opinion stated, the legal residence, or "domicile," is whichever one a candidate intends it to be.

For Henderson, it's Baltimore.

His campaign Web site states: "As a resident of Baltimore for over 50 years I've lived in Cherry Hill, Forrest Park, and Park Heights."

Henderson said his driver's license address is listed as Ulman Avenue but acknowledged that a previous license had listed his Woodbine address in Carroll County. He owns a car and a boat registered at the Woodbine home in the 7300 block of Donald Court.

"I want to get the cheapest insurance," said Henderson, who trains correctional officers for the state.

Henderson, who grew up mostly on Norfolk Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, said he spends most of his time with his mother-in-law, rather than his wife, because she is 86 and needs his help. He also added that he owns other property in Baltimore County, Pocomoke City and West Virginia.

When asked where his credit card statements are mailed, Henderson said: "I don't know. My wife handles the bills. I just make the money.

"I don't think it would make a difference where I live when it came down to the vote," Henderson said. "I trust that the people in Baltimore City are educated enough to vote on the issues and not allow all of this other stuff to cloud it."

The Baltimore Republican Party chairman, Donald Farber, said he had hoped to find a candidate whose residency wasn't open to question but that Henderson "had made his mind up that this is what he wanted to do."

"He's in Baltimore City for the greater period of time," Farber said. "Baltimore City is really his domicile. He's a registered voter here."

Registered last year

Henderson registered to vote on June 30 last year, listing Ulman Avenue as his residence. (He also checked the box for "female" instead of "male.") Henderson acknowledges that it was the first time he ever registered to vote.

He registered his campaign organization form with the state on the same day. Again, he listed Ulman Avenue as his residence. For his mailing address, he listed 2335 W. Franklin St. He said the Franklin Street address was going to be his campaign headquarters.

A year later, he filed a change of address for voter registration. For his old address, he mistakenly wrote what looks like "Frederick Road." For his new address, he wrote "2516 North Charles Street," which is the Baltimore Republican Party's headquarters.

The Board of Elections, however, has been unable to mail Henderson's voter notification card to that address. It was returned twice and stamped "not deliverable as addressed." That has led the board to list Henderson's address as "inactive," which means he will have to fill out a new residency form when he goes to the polls.

Victor Clark Jr., past chairman and current central committee member for the Baltimore Republican Party, said he questioned Henderson about his change of address but added that Baltimore voters would not care if Henderson spent part of his time in Carroll County.

"He came from this environment," Clark said. "I think what resonates is his solutions for the city's problems."

Henderson said he believes the mayor is fueling speculation about his residency.

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