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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 1 - Early Days With Boss Davis
Part 6

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

That year the party faced serious problems. Edward Hoos had served two uninspired terms of office, and Davis knew that the voters wanted a change. Hoos was dumped and George T. Smith nominated in his place. But unfortunately for Davis and the Democrats, the voters decided that they needed more than just a new name. Republican Mark Fagan, promising a reform administration, won easily by a 5,000 vote majority. Hague was one of the few Democrats who improved his standing in the party structure, since only wards one and two voted Democratic. Hague’s work in ward two produced a Pyrrhic victory at best. The 300 vote margin Hoos received was in sharp contrast to the 1900 vote margin he had received from the same ward in 1897.16

Fagan’s election as mayor precluded lead days for the Democrats. Davis himself lost a $5,000 per year job as City Collector, being replaced by a Republican. Next, the Republican dominated state legislature changed primary day to September 8, the day before the annual Davis outing. This move was designed to cut much of the electioneering out of the gathering. Hague escaped the sweep. He won election for a third term as constable in the fall of 1902.17 The Republicans did not bother to oppose him.

Democratic electioneering in the mayoralty campaign of 1903 revealed such a split in the ranks of the party that a Republican victory was a foregone conclusion. Defeated in his bid for nomination for mayor, John Treacy charged that “machine Democrats” had used high handed tactics to nominate James Murphy.18 Treacy took his charges to court and day after day, lawyers exposed the lurid details of the primary election, much to the Jersey Journal’s delight. Though proceedings were eventually dropped, readers were told that “machine democrats” had threatened Treacy supporters with “business reprisals” if they failed to support Murphy. Ballot boxes allegedly were “stuffed” with ballots of deceased and nonexistent voters. Davis lamely countered with an investigation of his own to uncover frauds on the part of Treacy, but the damage was done. Davis avoided officially supporting Murphy in the general election, a tacit admission of defeat, and Fagan won easily by over 3,000 votes.19 Only three wards backed Murphy. Hague’s second ward gave him a 700 vote edge, the largest he received.20 In defeat, Hague’s star seemed to rise. The Jersey Journal observed that

Frank Hague, Democratic committeeman from the tenth district, Second ward is more than ever looked on as the coming ward leader to succeed John P. Kenny of the ninth district. Hague is a Davis man. So is Kenny, but the Hague followers claim that a new man is needed to infuse new life into the Horseshoe organization.21


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