The drunk-driving state House delegate was ousted. The thief was just shy of regaining office. And voters were done with a delegate who was beaten in a carjacking last fall — an incident in which two assailants said the delegate had used drugs with them and solicited sex from one of them.
But while Maryland voters showed no interest in the longtime campaign consultant who ran for state Senate even as he was on probation for breaking election laws, the people chose Tuesday to keep an aging state senator who was censured by colleagues for using his office for private gain.
It wouldn’t be politics without a sprinkling of rogues and scoundrels, and voters proved once again Tuesday that, though some misdeeds are truly disqualifying, there are also times when allegations of wrongdoing are not enough to put a political career on ice.
Sen. Ulysses Currie, 77, was winning handily in his bid for the Democratic nomination to complete his third decade representing Prince George’s County in the General Assembly, despite having been stripped of his leadership posts and censured by Senate colleagues in 2012. Currie was paid almost $250,000 by Shoppers Food & Pharmacy between 2003 and 2008 to advocate for the grocery chain with state regulators; he didn’t tell state officials he was being paid by Shoppers and didn’t report the payments in his ethics filings.
But voters evidently had had enough of Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), who pleaded guilty to drunken boating charges two years ago and was convicted of drunken driving after being arrested for speeding, reckless driving and unsafe passing last summer. Although his colleagues in the House had urged Dwyer to get help, they did not ask him to step down. Dwyer was sentenced to 60 days in jail on the combined charges and spent his last day in confinement just last month. Eight Republicans ran for two seats in Dwyer’s district and he was running well behind the leaders.
Prince George’s voters put an end to nearly two decades of political success for Marilynn Bland, a Prince George’s County official who had prevailed in five straight elections despite facing allegations of misspending, plagiarism and assault. Despite her campaign slogan, “There’s opposition but no competition!,” Bland lost her bid for reeelection as clerk of the circuit court.
Bland, who as a county school board member was criticized for taking her children to Disney World on a taxpayer-funded trip to a conference, never admitted to any misuse of funds but came to a school board meeting to show her colleagues her new Mickey Mouse doll.
Former Del. Tiffany Alston, who took money from her own campaign account to pay for $3,560 in wedding expenses and took state funds to pay $800 to an employee of her law firm, was trailing narrowly in her effort to return to Annapolis. In a 10-way Democratic race for three seats in Prince George’s County’s District 24, Alston was running fourth — a respectable showing for a candidate who received a suspended sentence of a year in jail after she pleaded no contest to stealing money for her wedding and was convicted of taking state dollars to pay her employee. The judge in that case told Alston she had displayed “incredible arrogance.” Her law license was suspended.
Although Alston was within reach of regaining her old seat, two of her opponents who’d had run-ins with police were running quite far behind. Del. Darren M. Swain, who succeeded Alston after she was removed from office in 2012, was carjacked and beaten in Largo last fall. The two alleged assailants in the case then told police that Swain had used drugs with them and inappropriately touched one of them. The delegate denied those allegations and no charges were filed against him.
A third contender in that same district, Greg Hall, was charged with murder two decades ago in a shootout that killed a 13-year-old boy; the murder charge was dropped after tests determined that Hall had not fired the deadly shot, but he was convicted on a misdemeanor gun charge. “We all have a past,” Hall told The Washington Post earlier this year.
In Baltimore, voters firmly rejected the candidacy of Julius Henson, a prominent figure in state campaigns for decades. Henson, who sought to oust longtime Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, ran for the Democratic nomination despite a Circuit Court ruling that he was violating his probation by running for office. Henson was convicted of violating election laws when he wrote the script for an automated “robo-call” on behalf of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, in his election bid in 2010.
Prosecutors said Henson sought to use the calls to suppress turnout by black voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s who were presumed to support Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
The judge in that case barred Henson from working on any political campaigns in the state for three years. So rather than work for a candidate, Henson became one.
Hauled back into court, Henson argued that his probation order only barred him from consulting on someone else’s campaign. The judge didn’t buy it, told Henson he had “used up the grace of the court,” and tacked on some more jail time — but suspended it pending appeal, allowing Henson to finish out the campaign.