Paul E. Schurick, the 2010 campaign manager for former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was convicted Tuesday by a Baltimore jury of four counts stemming from a robocall that prosecutors said was intended to suppress the black vote.
The call, which Schurick acknowledged authorizing, was placed on Election Day to 112,000 voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, the state’s two largest majority-African American jurisdictions. Recipients were told by an unidentified woman that they could “relax” because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had been successful. The guilty verdict not only sullied the three-decade career of one of Maryland’s best-known political operatives, it also served as a major embarrassment for Ehrlich, the state’s only Republican governor in a generation.
Although prosecutors have never suggested that Ehrlich approved the calls, he is pushing a new book that draws anecdotes from his four years in Annapolis and contends his failed comeback bid last year was “swamped” by the black vote.
The jury convicted Schurick — who got his start in politics working for Democrats — of trying to influence votes through fraud, failing to identify the source of the call as required by law and two counts of conspiracy to commit those crimes.
Schurick’s defense argued during the week-long trial that he relied on the judgment of a campaign consultant hired to reach out to black voters, who said the calls would make use of “reverse psychology” and motivate potential Ehrlich supporters to go to the polls.
The consultant, Julius Henson, is scheduled to stand trial in February, about a week before Schurick’s sentencing is set.