Mount Rushmore and the robocall

Political operative Julius Henson has lots of tricks up his sleeve, all of them named for great American presidents

November 10, 2010|By Laura Vozzella, The Baltimore Sun

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich had lots of options when he hired Julius Henson, the bad-boy political operative behind the robocall that urged Baltimore voters to "relax" and stay home from the polls on Election Day.

Henson's Universal Elections offers a range of campaign packages, all named for U.S. presidents. The faces of our nation's greatest leaders are arrayed on Universal's website like an expanded Mount Rushmore, each one paired with a list of goods and services named in his honor. And what an honor it is.

Henson's cut-rate Washington Package provides 20,000 robocalls, 5,000 pieces of campaign literature, 500 door hangers and 1,000 lapel stickers. It goes for a low, low $4,999.99. The deluxe McKinley Package, for $124,999.99, gets you 400,000 robocalls, 500,000 pieces of literature, 20,000 door hangers, 6,000 lapel stickers and other goodies, such as key rings and pens.

It's not clear which package Ehrlich picked. His campaign paid more than $97,000 to two companies affiliated with Henson, Universal and Politics Today.

I can't imagine the misleading calls came as part of the Washington package, given the whole "cannot tell a lie" thing. There's no Nixon Package on the website; maybe Ehrlich special-ordered?

"Do you think Ehrlich got the Lincoln package or the McKinley package?" tweeted Steve Lebowitz, an Annapolis-based Democratic activist and Daily Kos blogger whose Twitter name is justdafacts.

That robocall wasn't quite worthy of the White House. Or Government House. More like the Big Top, Lebowitz figured.

"I think Bob Ehrlich got the P.T. Barnum Package — 50,000 robocalls giving relaxation and TV viewing tips to voters in your opponent's best precincts two hours before polls close, 5,000 packs of Wrigley's chewing gum delivered to your opponent's phone banks the night before, and sound trucks simulating crashing thunder and heavy rain Election Day morning, authority line optional."

Huh? What?

The last person in Baltimore to hear Henson's robocall?

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

"Haven't heard it," Young said on my colleague Dan Rodricks' WYPR radio show Tuesday, a full week after the call became the biggest political story in town.

Young severed ties with Henson on Friday, the day The Sun's Justin Fenton linked the call to Henson. But Young said he did that without having heard the call.

Rodricks expressed surprise that Young could have missed it, given all the play it got on local TV and radio.

"We've aired it on the station and other stations have aired it," the "Midday" host said.

"Maybe you could play it for me before we leave," Young said.

Better talk radio

On the same radio program, a woman who identified herself as Blanche called to take Young to task for something having nothing to do with potholes, vacant houses or other ordinary City Hall concerns.

"I'm a retired educator, and I'm really concerned about your English usage," she said.

I wasn't in the studio, but it sounded like Blanche made Young blanch.

"My English?" he said.

"I don't know whether you have been privileged or privy to standard English, but I just think that it's really not good for our children of the city to hear our leaders using incorrect —" Blanche said before the call was cut off.

Young might speak like a man of the people, but he mustered a classy response.

"I appreciate your comment but I disagree," he said. "Thank you."

Real harmony

Ever since MAXX Factor Quartet took first place in an international women's barbershop quartet competition, the Maryland-based group has been fielding invitations to perform some from as far away as Sweden.

The quartet is made up of Leslie Wodday of Annapolis; Molly Plummer of Port Deposit; Valerie Hadfield-Rasnake of Joppa; and Kim Hudson of just over the line in Delaware. They won the 2011 Sweet Adelines International Quartet Championship in Seattle last month.

(I'm afraid this news escaped The Sun's notice until recently, when a guy at the Catonsville YMCA buttonholed me to complain about the oversight; his wife sings with the women in Pride of

Baltimore Chorus. Anyway, I can't go back to the Y until I make good on my promise to give this some ink, and if I don't get my workout, I'm a wreck. So on with the item.)

The quartet beat out 53 groups from around the world, coming home with big trophies and sparkly crowns. It's enough to turn a gal's head. Wodday said winners of the competition, dubbed "queens of harmony," have a reputation for taking the royalty bit a little too seriously. But she assured me her group had not gone snooty.

"We're still the same peeps," she said. "That's what keeps us real."

Cal won't sit

The Iron Man is still showing up for work.

Cal Ripken Jr. answered the call to jury duty in Baltimore County on Monday. He didn't get put on a jury.

"Yes, called and excused," Ripken confirmed to The Sun's Erica Green.


    Baltimore Sun Articles
    |
    |
    |
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.