Market 'hacks' show ambivalence in Schmoke vote

September 13, 1995|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Renard Mullins, a hack at Lafayette Market, expected "a Schmoke landslide" when he voted early yesterday. But when he returned to the market at midmorning, he wasn't confident of his mayoral candidate.

"I got to thinking, this pretty much is a black and white election," said Mr. Mullins, who for the past two years has spent much of his time at the market on Pennsylvania Avenue "hacking," or offering people a ride for a fee.

"I voted for Schmoke like black people should. You know the white people are voting for Mary Pat and the black people are voting for Schmoke."

And that's what worried Mr. Mullins and much of the crowd that gathers daily at the market: Would blacks turn out in large numbers to support Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's bid for a third term?

Or would they become disillusioned with Mr. Schmoke's eight-year tenure and vote for his main Democratic rival, Council President Mary Pat Clarke?

Mr. Schmoke was the overwhelming choice of the hacks yesterday, although some were almost apologetic about it.

"It's important to have a black mayor because the population is mostly black," said Edward Massey, 70, a native of Baltimore who has not missed a chance to vote in the past two decades.

"We don't expect him to fix everything, but I don't expect nothing from Mary Pat Clarke. I think he can do a lot with the city."

On the avenue near the market, life usually is fast-paced, and the denizens seldom are fazed by the unusual. A drug deal, a police chase, a stoned prostitute. It's all there.

A woman who for much of the morning occupied a bus stop bench in front of the market said she wasn't voting, but hoped that "Kurtis Schmoke does a lot better this time around."

One hack who lives on nearby Gold Street, which in recent years has seen heavy drug dealing, said the mayor's occasional "sweeps" of drug activity are starting to take effect in his neighborhood.

Many felt that if Mrs. Clarke were mayor, their concerns would never be addressed because she'd be too busy with the "uptown people."

"We the little people to her. We're not high and mighty. When I voted, it wasn't a last-minute decision," said Robert Gaines, who is not a hack but comes to the market regularly. "I thought about Mary Pat for the last two weeks and it scared the hell out of me."

"Then I thought about Kurt Schmoke, and he scared me too. But then I said, he ain't done anything, but he's better than Mary Pat Clarke."

For the hacks, the ills at Lafayette Market are a microcosm for what they deem the city's troubles: few black entrepreneurs, declining occupancy, crime, heavy trash and litter, and drug dealing and use.

During a brief tour of the market and its grounds yesterday, areas inside the market reeked with urine, garbage was discarded in near-vacant stalls, and a used syringe was seen in a urinal.

Glass and litter were strewn on the parking lot, and dealers roamed the area quietly hawking their product. The market is scheduled to close this month for renovation.

But Kenneth Horn said the market's problems are caused by age and started to worsen before Mr. Schmoke's first term and are not the mayor's fault. The city, according to Mr. Horn, would be a lot worse under other leadership.

"Can you imagine this place if we didn't have a black mayor?" said Mr. Horn, a hack. "The crime would be worse, the neighborhoods unsafer, drugs would be everywhere -- even in more places than they are now."

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