In a field of such winners, perfect candidate is missing

July 25, 1999|By MICHAEL OLESKER

ON GLORIOUS mornings such as this, with God in his heaven and most candidates for mayor of Baltimore not yet incarcerated, the immortal Eugene "Reds" Hubbe -- the only political candidate in memory who got himself arrested on Election Day -- is looking pretty good.

Thousands will remember Reds' image, if not his name, from all those years he was leading impromptu cheers at Baltimore Colts games. Reds was always one of the world's great crashers. He'd crash weddings, dances, whatever. He'd get all dressed up and find somebody to wave to, such as the bridegroom. And everybody figured he belonged.

He used such a technique to get into the Colts opener back in the wondrous autumn of 1958. He and a couple of buddies, lacking actual tickets, made up a big "Go Colts" sign, marched into Memorial Stadium and then paraded around the field hollering C-O-L-T-S. They spent the next 14 years doing this every Sunday the Colts played, becoming semilegends in the process.

But the biggest party Reds crashed was the Democrats'. In 1971, he ran for a City Council seat from East Baltimore. This led, inevitably, not to his election but to his arrest. In today's politics, he would fit right in.

"Oh, absolutely," Reds was saying last week, in the midst of his retirement from a variety of hustles. "When I saw this collection of mayoral candidates, I was thinking of running. I thought, man, I look like a choirboy next to them."

Who could doubt him? In the race for mayor, we have an accused burglar, somebody named Dorothy Joyner Jennings, who regretfully has only the second-most impressive arrest record in the bunch.

We have Lawrence Bell, the alleged front-runner, who gets himself sued twice for going many months without paying his condo bills, and also gets his car repossessed for failure to make payments over many months.

Then there's Carl Stokes, who made up one story about graduating from college and another about his driving record. Between Bell's car and Stokes' driving record, how do these two campaign? By carpooling with each other?

Then there's Mary Conaway, who once complained about too many deadbeats on the city payroll. How ironic. She attended a Washington seminary full time while allegedly working full time as the register of wills. She claims she did this master's program at night; the seminary's recruiting director says this wouldn't be possible. Conaway could clear this up in a heartbeat by simply showing her old class schedules. She says, "I'm not doing that."

Then there's Phillip A. Brown Jr. He's beautiful. His criminal record only includes convictions for larceny, shoplifting and impersonating a police officer. Now he impersonates an actual candidate by running for mayor while facing charges that he tried to run down a woman in her car.

Which brings us back to the political choirboy, Reds Hubbe, who was merely a man ahead of his time. His actual time was 1971. Reds was in the midst of a variety of careers -- U.S. Postal Service and longshoreman among them -- and decided politics had to be easier than anything.

He was one of 28 1st District candidates that fall and, naturally, knew that much money would be needed to win. Thus, he raised $72 in contributions.

"Well, I got the $72," Reds remembered, "and I spent about $50 more out of my own pocket, and made a few signs and put 'em up. And we get to Election Day, and I didn't have no walking-around money to hand out. So I'm sitting across the street from the polling place, School No. 6 at Ann and Aliceanna, and I needed people to hand out literature for me.

"I said, `I can't pay you money, but I can give you a drink.' So I'm passing out highballs. And I was a little too close to the polling place, and I'm sitting in my car now, me and my cousin Buddy Janowicz, who was my treasurer, and Bill Gattus and Domenick D'Amico, and a policeman comes over and sees we have plastic cups, which we're drinking highballs out of.

"He grabs Buddy's cup, and I'm drinking mine real fast. There's a crossing guard nearby, and the policeman tells her to call for reinforcement. In three minutes, we had 30 police cars around us. You'd've thought we'd robbed a bank or something.

"Then they weren't sure if they could arrest us, because I was a candidate. Finally, they took us over to Southeast District, and I'm behind bars until some guys from the carpenters union bailed me out."

When interviewed by the Evening Sun, Reds declared with nearly serious indignation, "The only reason I got arrested was I was coming on strong and my opponents needed to stop me."

Actually, he had a dandy time but got 1,026 votes. Some of this year's candidates must be studying his style. They've been arrested, and it's not even Election Day. We all have so much to look forward to.

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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