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 Top 50 Trails

From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard

The Best of North County 2015

Our annual homage to the newest restaurants, shops, and activities keeping the region above I-56 the cool place it is—haute strip malls, million-dollar tract homes, and all!

San Diego's Top Dentists 2015

This list includes listings for over 450 dentists and specialists in the San Diego metropolitan area
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote now: Best Restaurants 2015
    From best chefs to top tacos, you choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 63 categories
  2. 27 Reasons to Love San Diego
    Our annual list of all things San Diego and rad—from kiteboarding to urban farming to a city-wide book club
  3. I Tried It: The New Jazzercise
    When I hear the word “Jazzercise,” neon leotards, leg warmers, headbands, and old ladies come to mind
  4. Get Fit & Have Fun in San Diego
    From doggie bootcamps to intense bodybuilding programs, it’s an exciting time to get in shape. What are you waiting for?
  5. R.I.P.: Mike "Bossman" Hardin
    The San Diego restaurant scene lost a legend last week when Mike “Bossman” Hardin of Hodad’s passed away
  6. San Diego's Top 50 Trails
    From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

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.

La Jolla Music Society Events

The La Jolla Music Society's 2015 Calendar
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

'Tis The Season

Winter in the desert cities

100 Works of Art to See Before You Die in San Diego

Local art critics, museum directors, and the big kahunas of the art world picked their must-see paintings, sculptures, and buildings with a special checklist just for you
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags