With the polls still open, an unidentified woman’s voice told voters who answered to “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already been “successful” in his rematch against Ehrlich.
There has been no indication that Ehrlich is a target of the probe by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, which sought the indictments from a grand jury in Baltimore and which said its investigation continues.
But the episode could still stain the tenure of Maryland’s only Republican governor in a generation and further complicate efforts of Republicans to win statewide races in Maryland, where blacks account for a larger percentage of the population than anywhere outside the Deep South.
Based on documents obtained in the investigation, the indictments describe what prosecutors say was a strategy informed by Schurick and carried out by Henson to tamp down the black vote in hundreds of precincts.
The plan, according to the indictments, “centered on what was termed ‘The Schurick Doctrine,’ which was designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African American Democrats. . . . The plan stated that [t]he first and most desired outcome [of the Schurick Doctrine strategy] is voter suppression.”
Henson, a consultant who has primarily advised Democrats in mostly African American jurisdictions, took responsibility for the calls in November, saying the message was “counterintuitive” — that the calls were intended to motivate Ehrlich supporters to vote.
But investigators continued to look into the robo-calls, and Ehrlich was recently called to testify before a grand jury, according to the people familiar with the proceedings. Ehrlich, who did not return a phone call placed to his law office in Washington, has previously told reporters that he was unaware of the robo-calls and does not think that they are effective as a general strategy.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Ehrlich said: “I believe in the rule of law. I believe in my friend and colleague, Paul Schurick. I hope a fair resolution is reached as quickly as possible for both Paul and Mr. Henson.”
After losing to O’Malley by more than 14 percentage points last year, Ehrlich said he had no plans to seek elected office in Maryland again.
In seeking charges against Schurick, investigators reached into Ehrlich’s inner circle. Peter R. Zeidenberg, a Washington-based attorney for Schurick, said in a statement that the charges were based upon “a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts” and that Schurick would “vigorously contest” them.