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The Nose

Forever Young

Posted 7/20/2005

In 1997, The Sun reported how then-state Sen. Larry Young (D-44th), who chaired the Senate’s health-care subcommittee, had enriched himself in public office through his ties to the health-care industry. On Jan. 16, 1998, after Young’s Senate colleagues had considered the details of the Sun’s reporting, he became the first senator expelled in the Maryland legislature’s two-century history. Young never admitted any wrongdoing, proclaimed that he’d not been given an adequate opportunity to defend himself, and proceeded, after his indictment and a lengthy criminal trial, to be acquitted by a jury.

Some things haven’t changed. Young still has his radio talk show on WOLB (1010 AM). He’s still a political player, both behind the scenes and by spending cash from his three campaign committees, despite his expulsion more than seven years ago. And his name is still bandied about for a possible second act, a la disgraced former D.C. mayor Marion Barry. In fact, the Nose has been hearing as much of late—that Young covets state Sen. Verna Jones’ seat in the 44th District, which, of course, used to be his.

Young tells the Nose that “I’m being advised by counsel that, because of being on the radio, I can’t publicly say anything” about his political aspirations until “I come off the air.” However, he points out that “others are not prevented” from putting together a political strategy on his behalf. When asked if he’d be freed up in the future to talk in more detail about his electoral plans, Young says, “Yes.”

“Sometimes individuals, they say and do things just to kind of generate some energy around themselves,” Jones remarks obtusely about the threat of a Young candidacy. “I just can’t take it seriously until it’s right there, and I’ll deal with it. . . . Everybody has a right to run if they choose to do that. I am guided by maintaining the integrity that has been reestablished and . . . giving people the level of confidence [in their political leadership] they feel comfortable with.”

That may be the rub, though, should Young choose to run. While the district’s boundaries shifted somewhat since Young represented the 44th, voters historically have been quite forgiving of Young’s various trespasses. Before his expulsion, he’d survived scandal enough for a gaggle of senators: lying about his education, repeated campaign-finance snafus, his various ties to known drug-world figures, the memorable time in 1988 when he faked his own kidnapping after beating his aide with a piece of wood, and the contradictions in his story about where he was when his friend Marvin Moore was murdered in 1990, a case that remains unsolved. Yet he kept getting re-elected. And the intrigue didn’t end after he was booted. In 2000, a few months before Young lost his only post-expulsion electoral foray—a race to head the local NAACP branch (incumbent G.I. Johnson defeated him, 233 votes to 174)—the chairman of one of Young’s political committees, Larry Hines, was found murdered in a North Avenue rowhouse, a killing that also remains unsolved.

Under the law, nothing prevents Young from taking on Jones. Not his expulsion and not his campaign-finance irregularities—which continued up until last fall, when he retroactively closed his last remaining account back to November 2002, despite having spent money from it since then. Among his favorite political expenditures during this period: eating at the now-defunct restaurant Britton’s, contributing to local politicians, and donating to the Arena Players theater company and to Travis Winkey Productions, a local modeling agency. This is a man who, according to state Board of Elections records, has had no fewer than nine campaign committees supporting his various candidacies since his career started in the mid-1970s. One campaign has been carrying $60,000 in debt since 1987.

“I believe,” Young says about his campaign finances, “it would take a new committee [to run again], but we haven’t entertained that yet.”

While not barred lawfully from running again, the Nose wonders whether Young is prepared to brave the scrutiny a second act would bring. Of course, he could rely on his pattern of saying such unwanted attention is racism. On Oct. 4, 1997, Young took time on his radio show to declare that there is “an editor [at The Sun] who told a judge—in fact the judge was Judge Edgar Silver—told him, ‘I am going to get that nigger Larry Young,’ for an incident that I can only attribute to something that happened well over 10 years ago.” Young had to apologize for that one, since Silver and a Sun editor told the Nose it never happened. (“Teflon Senator,” The Nose, Oct. 22, 1997) And an accusation just might play with the electorate.

Either way, Young says, “I’m not concerned about responding to things I don’t want to respond to. I concentrate on my very strong, distinguished record” as a public servant. Should he go for the brass ring, the electorate will decide whether it agrees with his rosy self-evaluation.

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