A. Robert Kaufman took his socialist agenda to The Block yesterday, where he announced his candidacy in the mayoral race and called for the creation of a "red-light district" where prostitution and drugs would be legal.
Kaufman ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003 and 1999 and also lost bids for a U.S. Senate seat last year and in 2004. Over the years, he has run in other federal, state and local races and never won a seat. In 2003, he garnered 645 votes when he ran in the Democratic mayoral primary.
Yesterday, Kaufman, 76, said he decided to launch his campaign at The Block to grab the news media's attention and because it is close to the city elections office, where he filed the paperwork necessary to run. The Block refers to a section of East Baltimore Street known for its strip bars and pornography shops.
Kaufman said allowing prostitution in certain areas -- similar to the laws in Nevada -- would decrease the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and violence against prostitutes.
"It would lower the number of prostitutes beaten up by their johns, the number of prostitutes who are shot by their johns or not paid," he said.
Kaufman was met mostly with indifference by workers and patrons on The Block. A bartender at Club Harem did engage Kaufman in conversation and said she would vote for him after hearing his pitch.
"I thought I'd find the kind of crowd that I did find," Kaufman said. "The concerns are a little more specific here because they're here for either sex or alcohol, many of them. But it's not terribly different throughout the city, black or white, particularly in working-class areas."
Kaufman's is running as a Democrat in the Sept. 11 primary election. Other Democrats in the race include Sheila Dixon -- who moved up from City Council president to the mayor's post in January when then-Mayor Martin O'Malley became governor -- as well as Del. Jill P. Carter, Phillip A. Brown Jr., schools administrator Andrey Bundley, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and Frank M. Conaway, the city Circuit Court clerk.
Kaufman acknowledged having "absolutely no chance at winning the race" but said he wants to use his campaign to foster discussion on creating jobs, pushing for a living wage and treating addiction as a medical problem.
"I'm the only serious candidate in the race," Kaufman said. "I'm the only candidate that's coming up with substantial solutions for real problems. The others are more interested in their careers and financing. As far as me becoming mayor, I have no aspirations to be mayor. But people should vote for me to help build a movement."
In June 2005, Kaufman was attacked over a rent dispute and stabbed with a knife. He had four operations, lost more than 80 pounds and needs a kidney transplant. He said he will not do much door-to-door campaigning because of his condition.
With the city on pace to surpass 300 homicides for the first time since 1999, reducing crime has become one of the defining themes among candidates this year. Kaufman blamed the killings on poverty and an unsuccessful war on drugs. Calling for radical change, Kaufman said allowing drug use in certain areas would lower the crime rate because dealers would not have to fight over territory.
Kaufman passed out literature detailing his 24-point plan, which includes allowing non-naturalized immigrants and felons, including those in prison, the right to vote and lowering the voting age to 16.
Other points include:
A call for nonpartisan, citywide, publicly financed elections.
A school board elected by parents, teachers and students.
The use of methane gas from garbage dumps and pig and chicken farms to create energy.
Establishing a nonprofit vehicle and home insurance cooperative for the city.