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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 11

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Luck was also on Hague’s side. Wittpenn hardly proved as grateful for his support as Davis had wanted. When Davis requested Wittpenn to ask Hague not to run a separate slate of candidates for the county committee, Wittpenn answered: “Hague is a Democrat, and I cannot dictate to him.”36 Faced with a divided, if still powerful opposition, Hague did run a separate slate of candidates, winning four of the contested ten spots in the second ward. This was hardly a devastating defeat for Hague. Had Sheehy and Davis firmly joined hands against him, they might well have been able to lessen greatly his influence in ward two. In turn, this might well have sealed his political doom.

With the support of Davis, Wittpenn easily won the Democratic primary for the mayoralty nomination. This put him in a better than ever position to call his own shots. All factions in the party made gestures toward party harmony after the primary. Hague told his own followers in a speech at Tammanee Club to forget their differences and fight for the whole ticket. Shortly thereafter, the two rival clubs held a joint meeting in a show of unity. Hague and Sheehy both declared that their “rift” was at an end. The two clubs jointly sponsored a ball in the second ward. Davis and Wittpenn both attended and all factions were apparently in harmony. In the mayoralty race, Wittpenn swamped Mark Fagan once again, this time by 6,000 votes. With Sheehy and Hague working together for once, he carried the second ward by a three to one margin, 2,383 to 751, the largest in the city.37 Such work by Hague was bound to ingratiate him once again in Wittpenn’s mind. Soon after the election, the rumor was out that instead of fearing the loss of his job as City Hall Custodian, Hague was a leading candidate for the appointment as Chief of Police, a job paying $3,500 per year. If he received the job, Hague would not only be getting a big promotion, but he would be directly in control of much more patronage. Hague could thank both Sheehy and his blessings for the dramatic and overnight change in his political fortunes. This was not the last time Hague was to be graced by good fortune.

Though Wittpenn eventually decided that Hague would have to settle for merely a reappointment as custodian, he was far from being dead politically as some of Davis's supporters had so confidently expected.


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