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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 2

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Hague obviously felt that his rapid change of tune would make him a comic figure in the estimation of his followers. Therefore, he opposed Heavy for the nomination, much to Davis’s annoyance. Although Hague fell in line and worked for Heavy after he won the nomination, Davis’s opinion of Frank Hague was lowered considerably.

Hague’s opinion of Davis suffered at the same time. In any event, the wily sergeant at arms was on the lookout for a new sponsor, a person who might conceivably become powerful enough to challenge Davis for county leadership. Hague did not have to look far. The traditionally Republican Jersey Journal was growing increasingly disillusioned with incumbent Mayor Mark Fagan. “He has only built up his own machine…he is weak, evasive…a man who has no will of his own.”4 As early as May. 1907, editorials appeared praising young H. Otto Wittpenn as a possible choice of the Democrats for mayor in the fall election. It was pointed out that Wittpenn was spending many evenings in the ‘Show, gathering support and that he was becoming increasingly popular all over the city. Though no specific mention is made, it is probable that he and Hague were on increasingly intimate terms. The Jersey Journal endorsed Wittpenn as being: “clean, straightforward, businesslike, and independent.”5

If Hague smelled a winner, so did Davis. Davis had halfheartedly supported a loser in the last mayoralty election, and his control over the county Democracy would surely teeter if he supported a loser in 1907. It should also be stated that Davis and Hague were hardly bitter enemies at this time, having only had one significant disagreement. Nevertheless, Davis took the unusual step of supporting no candidate in the primary. His lack of forceful leadership in the Democratic campaign was very significant. Wittpenn had to rely more upon popular support in general than the support of the county organization. Hague and other supporters in Jersey City worked feverishly. On election day, Wittpenn won by a landslide with nearly a 10,000 vote majority. It is significant to note that he carried every ward in the city.6 Despite the presence of pro-Fagan police and voting machines in the second ward, Hague’s efforts nevertheless produced a greater than two to one edge for Wittpenn.

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