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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 3- Hague Fights the County Machine
Part

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

As nominees, Hague and Wittpenn were both very interested in making peace within the party. Within a week, Hague retired "voluntarily" as ward leader from the second, offering the post to his long time rival Sheehy. Political pundits said Hague abdicated at Wittpenn's insistence, the latter being better schooled in the art of mollifying others. Hague gave in since he too needed Sheehy's support in the general election.

But Hague and Prout, though winners in the Democratic primary, were not destined to run only against the Republican nominees. Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Brackner pointed out that the combined votes of the four "organization" candidates for the Street and Water Board, if given to himself and William Carlock alone, would put them well ahead of Hague and Prout. So he planned to run. If this was not enough to discourage Hague, his enemies dragged the Red Dugan scandal out of the closet, complete with new and startling evidence. Hague's remarkable ability as a political infighter was soon put to a rigorous test. George L. Record, campaign manager for one of the Progressive Republican candidates, had uncovered evidence which he thought would bury Hague's political career forever. A well-known criminal, known locally as "Sam of Posen," was forced to testify in his own defense concerning an armed robbery charge. During his testimony, he was closely questioned as to how he got out of jail following a previous conviction. He admitted having paid Hague, then a constable, $700 to help him secure a bail bondsman. Record got the testimony, released it to the newspapers and then, inexplicably, left town for Chicago. The next day, headlines screamed: "Wittpenn Called Upon to Tell Why he Stands By Frank Hague, Who Went to Red Dugan's Help."9 Wittpenn labeled the story "species of blackguardism." Hague, apparently playing for time to think, replied, "I have nothing further to say." Significantly, he did not deny the charges immediately. Both Wittpenn and Hague said they would wait until Record returned from Chicago before pursuing the case further. While Record spent five days in Chicago, the Jersey Journal reviewed the whole Red Dugan case in detail. Record made a major error as soon as he arrived back in Jersey City. In an interview by the local press, he stated: "I don't know whether the charges made against Mr. Hague are true...." Yet Record continued:

Is there any doubt that Red Dugan was at least a notorious burglar and thief? These questions are important because Mayor Wittpenn professes to be fighting the political machine of his party, which is notoriously corrupt, and if Frank Hague is the man that these newspaper articles picture him, it is plain that the machine that Wittpenn is building is no different from the machine he is pretending to fight.10
Hague saw his opening and he went for Record's throat:
Record makes attacks upon me, but you will notice he makes no charges against me. He says he doesn't newspapers say so and so....

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