There used to be a saying around Cochise County that if you wanted to vote in the primary election, you’d better be a Democrat. That inertia is probably why I’m still a registered Democrat. Today, if you register Independent, you can choose your primary ballot, which I think is totally wrong.
But back to the point of this article. Way back when, Cochise County was strongly Democrat, and Bisbee certainly was, though that didn’t mean the D letter after a candidate’s name would guarantee him an election. Voters looked at the man, and many Republicans were elected to office.
In May, 1904, Arizona was gearing up for sending representatives to the presidential conventions. Citizens of territories could not vote in federal elections, but they could participate in the conventions, and the Bisbee Daily Review, a Democrat newspaper (in that day, it actually mattered; in fact, Bisbee’s first newspaper, in 1888, was named the Democrat), was whipping up the politically interested.
The Cochise County Central Committee had met in Bisbee on April 23 and had called for a county convention to be held in Tombstone on May 14 to elect 30 delegates to represent the county at the territorial convention in Tucson May 23.
Apportionment of delegates
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The Bisbee meeting apportioned delegates to Tombstone based on the population of Democrats in each community. A total of 105 delegates would attend, with 40 of them coming from Bisbee, which was both the largest population center and the largest party stronghold. Douglas, which was an up-and-coming smelter and railroad town at the time (both major Bisbee mining companies had built their facilities by that time), was second, with 15 delegates.
Tombstone, the county seat, added 10 and Bisbee’s borderlands suburbs, Naco and Osborne, also had a total of 10. As can be seen, the greater Bisbee area had almost half of the votes.
The Review included a series of editorials in its May 1 edition to discuss the upcoming meeting, including a warning to stay focused on “the common enemy,” the Republicans, who were very likely to be manifested in the ever-popular visage of Teddy Roosevelt.
“The tendency manifested by some newspapers claiming to be Democratic to give themselves over to criticism of Democrats rather than devote their attention to the common enemy of Democracy,” the Review said, “is to be deprecated no matter in which direction they tend.
“The only certain result of such a policy is to make for strife which will injure the chances of the party in the coming election.”
The editorial mentioned specifically the candidacy of Judge Alton B. Parker, hinting that he was their candidate out of the large field of contestants.
“All Democrats and lovers of honest government have a common enemy in the Republican party,” the Review said. While differences of opinion among party members are natural, “there is no excuse for their expression in terms that only make for party strife,” it added. “These should be reserved for the real enemy.”
Selecting Bisbee’s 40 delegates
Another editorial that day talked about the upcoming meeting in Bisbee to select the community’s 40 delegates. It was to be a “mass meeting” of party members, to be held in the evening at Tammany Hall (a meeting place on Brewery Gulch, named after the corrupt New York organization, presumably tongue in cheek.)
“It is also a pleasure to note that as far as can be ascertained, by interviews and otherwise, there has not only been no mention of sending an instructed delegation to the national convention at St. Louis, but a strong sentiment in favor of the national delegates going with free hands, uninstructed as to any candidate whose name may be mentioned at that convention . . . .”
(There would be some brouhaha a decade or so later when a Bisbee delegate didn’t follow “orders” to vote a certain way at the convention. But that’s another story and was after statehood was achieved.)
While there might have been a number of planks of interest to Bisbee, and Arizona, voters, the first was statehood. “It will be remembered that Arizona will have not only favors, but demands, to make of the national convention,” the Review said.
“Her fight for statehood must be waged there, and being in an absolutely free and independent position, untrammeled by instructions of any kind, Arizona’s opportunities will be better, brighter and have more hopes of successful pleading than were she represented by delegates fettered with instructions.”
Bisbee Democrats were harmonious, the paper said, encouraging them to turn out in “full force.”
Bisbee meeting is packed
If you were a Democrat who was not present at the local convention the night before, the Review reported on page 1 on May 4, “you must feel lonesome. Everybody was there, and it was the regular old fashioned kind of a Democratic meeting with plenty of red fire, and everybody enthusiastic and ready and willing to debate and contend for that which they deemed was in the best interests of the party.”
“From the turn loose the pace was fast and hot enough to suit the most fastidious. The hall was crowded, packed, jammed, and there was danger of the floor giving way.”
A group favoring a delegation instructed to vote for William Randolph Hearst presented a list of 40 names, but after debate, only 11 of those men were chosen for the Tombstone meeting, and they would have the right to promote an instructed delegation. The other 29 from Bisbee would favor an uninstructed delegation.
The Bisbee delegation would not be bound by the “unit rule,” with each man “free to act as he thinks for the best interests of his party.”
The Review also reported that similar meetings in Douglas, Naco and Tombstone, representing a significant majority of the county, also refused to send instructed delegations, which meant that the county delegation would go to Tucson favoring the same.
The issue is statehood
Editorializing in the front-page article, the Review said that “the national convention must declare in no uncertain terms in favor of the admission of Arizona to single statehood and the duty of the Arizona delegation to the convention must be to secure the adoption of this declaration.”
Bisbee, with the support of Naco, would be presenting the name of Bisbee Mayor J.S. Taylor, with Douglas offering up William Neville, a former member of congress “and said to be a very able man,” while Willcox and the east end of the county would ask for the naming of Capt. James H. Tevis, “the original Hearst boomer in the territory.”
Showing what controlling the vote will do, “on the first ballot, the Review predicted that Taylor will be declared the choice. He will have the support of the 40 votes from his home precinct, and added to this there will be 10 votes from Naco, which action was decided upon at a caucus of the delegates from that precinct” held the day before.
Reporting the results of the Tombstone meeting the following day, the Review was correct in its estimation that Taylor would win, but its long-held idea that delegates should be without instruction went down, with a strong sentiment for Hearst.
It’s Hearst that delegates want
In the colorful writing common to the times, the Review said: “Democratic thunder rolled and echoed around the Tombstone Hills today, and the earth seemed to tremble in the might wave of enthusiastic democracy that swept everything before it in the convention.”
The only contest at the meeting was whether it would be Taylor or Neville who would represent the county at the national convention in St. Louis, with Taylor winning out and the Douglas delegation moving “that the vote be unanimous, and gracefully bowed to the will of the majority amid the cheers of the other delegates assembled.”
The delegates “resolved” that their support was for Hearst for his “ever-faithful services . . . in exposing the invasion of equal rights by forces of monopoly and demanding the enforcement of existing laws in the interest of people.”
Because of the resolution, Taylor “promised to do all in his power at St. Louis to secure the nomination” of Hearst.
At the state convention, which also went for Hearst, Taylor was chosen as a delegate to St. Louis (apparently certain counties got their man before the convention), along with John Lawler of Prescott, Isaac Barth of St. Johns, W.F. Timmons of Yuma, William Gillespie of Solomonville and, from Phoenix, 26-year-old Carl Hayden, who after statehood would represent Arizona in Washington from 1912 until 1969, first in the House, then the Senate.
The field of Democratic presidential contenders in 1904 looks like the Republican field today, with 13 men getting votes during the balloting, including Nelson A. Miles, who had ended the Apache wars in Arizona had been considered a great hero around the state a generation earlier.
But it’s Parker in St. Louis
Hearst never stood a chance. Alton B. Parker, a jurist from New York who was popular with Democrats and Republicans alike, swept the first ballot, gaining 658 votes to the 200 that Hearst received. (Miles got 3 votes.) The vice presidential balloting was equally decisive, with Henry G. Davis getting 654 votes. At age 80, the former West Virginia senator was the oldest man ever nominated for the office.
As incumbent, Republican Theodore Roosevelt had no opposition in the primary, and in November, easily dominated the race, winning in every state in the North and the West, losing in the South, winning the popular vote margin by 18.8 percentage points.
The popular vote was 7.6 million for Roosevelt, 5.1 million for Parker and coming in third was perennial Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs, with 0.4 million votes.
The Democratic Review certainly wasn’t pleased with the November results. “It was awful,” read the headline the day after the election.
“The more one sees of the national election returns the more he realizes that this country has gone, bag and baggage, into the Republican party. The victory of Roosevelt was the most sweeping of any in the history of the country.”
The local paper also nodded to Debs. “The Socialists made a substantial gain their total vote,” but not enough to change any election.
For the newspaper, the eight months of campaigning, and losing, was enough. “Now that the election is a thing of the past, let us turn our attention more to industrial pursuits and drop the tiresome song of the campaign.”