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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

A. Harry Moore was re-elected to succeed Larson, and things went more smoothly between Jersey City and Trenton; indeed, Moore had made the point in a 1931 campaign pamphlet that he had in his first term spent four days each week in his Trenton oflice and two in his Jersey City office. In 1934 Hague put Dill up again, but for a variety of reasons, including the series of stump speeches that the Mayor made for him, he lost to Harold G. Hoffman by 12,344 in a total major-party vote of 1,362,536. In Hudson County the organization produced for Dill a majority of 89,096, but it was not enough.

Governor Hoffman was elected on a platform which pledged no new taxes but a `curb upon governmental spend ing,' plus a rejuvenated Republican Party, worthy of public confidence, tolerating no horse-trading or barter of public office....' He began his term with a brave defiance of Mayor Hague in his inaugural address:

I have never accepted the fact, and I do not now accept it, that any person or group outside of the chosen officers of the people, with no mandate from the people of the whole state, with no official responsibility, and required to render no public accounting, is entitled to seize leadership and direct the affairs of government. It is, and has been, my conviction that the very essence of our system of government reserves to the people the right to choose their own leaders, who shall be responsible to them alone. I insist that he who seeks the right of leadership must be willing to hazard the endorsement of the people. (Manual (1935), p. 678.
But the governor wanted the state to impose a sales tax, and in spite of the fact that the Republicans had a majority in each of the two houses of the legislature, he could not produce the votes. The Republicans were afraid of the political effects of a sales tax when Mayor Hague, just before he left on one of his long trips, without consulting the Democratic members of the legislature, issued a statement of the party attitude:
There will he no obstructionist tactics by the Democratic minority, for the party recognizes that there must be no partisanship on emergency relief legislation, which involves feeding and clothing the needy. The Democratic Party ran on a platform opposing new taxes, and it cannot go back on its platform pledge.

The people of New Jersey have elected Governor Hoffman as their leader and also elected a Republican Senate and Assembly. The voters gave him a working majority in both houses, and his election carries all the responsibility of preparing the necessary legislation to meet all requirements, relief and otherwise.

Therefore, the Democratic Party should not set up any obstacles or oppose in any way any plan devised by Governor Hoffman, but, on the other hand, he should not expect to involve the Democratic members of the legislature, who ran on a platform opposed to new taxes in any form .... (Newark Evening News, January 26, 1935.)

On February 12 the governor appeared before a joint session of the legislature and made a new appeal for his tax program. In the course of his remarks he denounced Mayor Hague by name for his statement, pointed out somewhat irrelevantly that the Jersey City budget had increased $717,000, and quoted some statements favoring sales taxes made in previous years by Democratic members of the legislature.

For five months the Republican majority tried unsuccessfully to find a painless method of raising two million dollars per month for relief. On May 914 the Newark Evening News alleged that the governor had made a deal with Mayor Hague to pass a sales tax. The following day the governor issued a denial, but the editors did not believe the story. In three days twenty-four newspapers published editorials de- nouncing the supposed bipartisan agreement.

Governor Hoffman brought, through personal conferences and through county leaders, every pressure he could upon Republican members. The Newark Evening News charged on May 27 that `The power of patronage is the big stick behind the bill.... Assemblyman Knight of Monmouth has been nominated for Common Pleas judge. Passage of the sales tax would create several hundred new jobs in the tax department, a powerful argument on wavering members.'

Mayor Hague called to Jersey City those few Democratic members who would not promise by telephone to vote for the sales tax bill. He took them into his private office and used upon them every device of persuasion short of force that occurred to him.

When the bill came up for a vote in the Assembly on June 4 the Republican majority leader, Doctor Marcus Newcomb, refused either to manage the bill or to vote for it, and the Democratic minority leader, John Rafferty, had to assume command of the coalition forces. After all amendments were defeated, the bill passed, 31 to 27, with two members absent. The one vote necessary for a majority came from a colored member who had been in the governor's office an hour before. The Republicans had a majority of members present, 32 to 26, but the bill was passed by 20 Democrats and 11 Republicans.


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