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The Boss

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

In the campaign of 1924 there was strong sympathy for La Follette among union men the country over. Theodore Brandle, president of the New Jersey Building Trades Council, then `czar' of the building trades in the northern part of the state, was at that time allied with Hague, whom he called `labor's best friend.' Hearing that a movement was afoot to obtain a resolution of endorsement for La Follette at the annual convention of the State Federation of Labor in September, Brandle determined to head it off. The workers from the garment, tobacco, hat, brewery, and machine trades were sending delegates instructed to vote for the resolution; so Brandle got all the building unions to send delegates, and by a close vote a resolution was passed forbidding any political endorsements.

Hague must have known that Davis had no more chance than Cox, but late in October he issued an optimistic statement predicting his election. The statement is worth quoting in part only because it shows the mind of a practical politician: `Four years ago we [the Democrats] had every racial group in the state against us. This year they are all back except the Germans, and they are for La Follette, not for Coolidge.... The Negro vote is usually Republican, but the Democratic Party will get a large part of it on the Klan issue this year.'

He might have known what he was talking about in Hudson County, for Davis got a plurality of 10,000 there, and La Follette came in a very poor third. But in the state as a whole, Davis was overwhelmed: Coolidge got 675,000, Davis X09,000, and La Follette 108,000. This landslide also covered up the Democratic candidate for United States senator. There were four years more to work for Smith, and the vice-chairman did everything he could. While the Case Committee was interviewing public employees of Jersey City who never did anything for their salaries and trying to trace certain mysterious companies that sold land to Jersey City at immense profits, he once more led a Smith delegation, this time to Houston. He had more success than before; working quietly but diligently, he saw his friend nominated.

The revelations of the Case Committee did not help Smith in New Jersey, particularly when it was proved that Hague had used one-day Democrats to nominate a Republican candidate for governor who would be so weak, he hoped, that the whole Republican ticket would sink with him. Probably Al Smith himself was no more disappointed at his defeat than was Frank Hague. When the votes were in, it appeared that the Hudson County machine had functioned as never before; Smith got 153,000 votes to 99,000 for Hoover; but, alas, the rest of New Jersey did not view the then Happy Warrior so favorably: he lost the state 616,000 to 925,000.

Smith did not forget, however, what Hague had done for him. The following August, the day after Vice-Chancellor Fallon announced that he was going to discharge the Mayor from arrest for contempt of the legislature in refusing to answer questions about the sources of his income, he and Mrs. Hague sailed for their usual summer trip to Europe. Former Governor Smith appeared to shake hands and to bid them good-bye.


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