Edit ModuleShow Tags

Election Oddities


Published:

(page 1 of 3)

The year was 1910. Few of California’s 58 counties had surfaced roads. It was easier to get your horse shod than to find a gas station. Yet the Republican candidate for governor that year carried his campaign to every hamlet aboard a bright red “Locomobile.”

Hiram Johnson’s hard-won victory made political history. His subsequent reforms—the initiative, referendum and recall, plus removal of party labels in local elections—broke Southern Pacific Railroad’s longtime grip on our state government. Johnson was California’s first politician of national importance, the governor against whom successors would be measured.

His election is remembered also for causing a lasting family rift. The new governor’s father, Grove Johnson, had long been Southern Pacific’s wheelhorse in the legislature, and he saw his son’s stance as a personal betrayal. Years later, after Hiram joined Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose revolt, old Grove remained unforgiving, saying, “Let this prodigal son eat of the fatted calf of repentance.” The two never reconciled.

From such beginnings evolved California’s tradition for election oddities. As when, back in 1962, Congressman Clem Miller was reelected although dead two weeks on Election Day.

Or in 1918, when a Johnson reform called “cross-filing” first failed us. This rule permitted candidates to seek partisan nomination on more than one ticket—an incumbent’s dream. The legislature became a repository for political eunuchs the harem found it couldn’t be rid of. (In 1940, two of every five state senators and 80 percent of the Assembly were elected as both Democrats and Republicans in the June primary!)

Cross-filing had an even nuttier side. San Francisco’s Republican mayor, James (“Sunny Jim”) Rolph, won the 1918 Democratic primary for governor while running second in his own party. Under the law, he was barred from the November ballot—and waited another dozen years to become governor.

Depression-era 1934, the first midterm election for Franklin Roosevelt, proved a glory time for New Deal Democrats—everywhere but California. Here, establishment forces ganged up on the “Sunkist utopian” nominee for governor, Upton Sinclair. Theater newsreels, a staple of pre-television times, showed fake footage of hobos riding the rails into California, proclaiming their intent to freeload off Sinclair’s promised bounty. The hoax worked, and he lost.

But 1934 also witnessed what may be the strangest triumph ever of a dark horse for any office. The locale was downtown Los Angeles, in an Assembly district long represented by cross-filing Republican Clair Woolwine. The fate visited on this legislator foreshadowed the clout that came to be wielded by lobbyist Artie Samish, “the secret boss of California.”

Something Woolwine had done offended one of Samish’s brewery clients, who insisted on fielding a candidate against him. Samish instructed one of his minions, a Bill Jasper, to find some sacrificial lamb from within a populace consisting mainly of winos or others down on their luck.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018

Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018

The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now

A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene

Your 2018 San Diego Summer Bucket List

Here’s our insider’s guide for Memorial Day through Labor Day
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    From burritos to bottomless mimosas, you choose San Diego’s best eats and drinks in 90 categories
  2. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  3. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  4. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  5. Has Anything Really Changed Since Ballast Point Sold to Constellation?
    More than two years after the acquisition, misinformation and misunderstanding still abound
  6. Your 2018 San Diego Summer Bucket List
    Here’s our insider’s guide for Memorial Day through Labor Day
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags