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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 8

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Things calmed down before the general election in November. Davis spent the middle of July at the National Democratic Convention in Denver, casting one of the majority ballots for Bryan. Sheehy and Hague both concentrated on seeking jobs for followers and members of their rival clubs. Hague seemed unusually quiet in the fall of 1906, perhaps licking his recent wounds, certainly considering his next move. Hague was inactive during the primary and was seldom seen in the campaign preceding the general election. The Democrats had nominated a former brewer for sheriff, and as the paper pointed out four weeks before the election, “Pulpits Ring Out Against Brewery Candidate Kelly.” Kelly was Davis’s choice and both Hague and Wittpenn gave him little help. Briefly, the Jersey Journal summed up the coming election: “Publicly the Hague men are for the Kelly ticket. Privately, well never mind what they say privately.”26 “The rank and file Democrats did not want Kelly but Davis rammed him down their throats.”27 According to this same source, “City Hall Custodian talks politics in whispers these days.” He obviously sensed a loser in the coming election. Registration even in the second ward was down ten percent from the previous year, and even a personal visit to Jersey City by Bryan himself did little shake the apathy. Hague astutely avoided the campaign, hoping that Sheehy would bear the burden of a poor showing by ward two Democrats.

For one of the few times in his career, Hague’s instincts failed him. Despite Taft’s overwhelming victory over Bryan, Kelly won the shrievalty. He carried the second ward by over 1,800 votes. Sheehy and Hague both claimed credit for the victory. The formerly silent Hague quickly regained his composure and jumped on the bandwagon. “If Sheehy had worked harder, Kelly would have run up a 2,100 majority instead of only 1,800.”28

Unfortunately for Davis, he had no bandwagon upon which to leap. He failed to deliver traditionally Democratic Hudson County for Bryan. The voters preferred the round, jolly and benign appearing Taft to the stern two-time-loser, Bryan. Just as Hague was to learn he could not fight Wilson’s popularity and prestige, so did Davis discover he could not defeat Theodore Roosevelt’s backing of Taft. Davis’s days as county leader appeared to be numbered. He was unable to gather enough support in the second ward through Sheehy to unseat Hague as one of the ten county committeemen from that ward. Hague, on the other hand, failed in his bid to elect his own slate of committeemen. Of the five seats contested, Hague retained his own and that of one other supporter; Sheehy and Davis won the other three.29 It is significant to note that Hague bitterly complained about election irregularities. This special election took place only three weeks after the general election. It seemed that Sheehy and Davis had hired thugs to patrol the polling locations, with the result that a man named Marshall, a Hague supporter, was actually shot and killed at the polls.

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