|Elections in Pennsylvania|
Philadelphia's municipal election held on November 6, 1951, was the first under the city's new charter, which had been approved by the voters in April, and the first Democratic victory in the city in more than a half-century. The positions contested were those of mayor and district attorney, and all seventeen city council seats. There was also a referendum on whether to consolidate the city and county governments. Citywide, the Democrats took majorities of over 100,000 votes, breaking a 67-year Republican hold on city government. Joseph S. Clark Jr. and Richardson Dilworth, two of the main movers for the charter reform, were elected mayor and district attorney, respectively. Led by local party chairman James A. Finnegan, the Democrats also took fourteen of seventeen city council seats, and all of the citywide offices on the ballot. A referendum on city-county consolidation passed by a wide margin. The election marked the beginning of Democratic dominance of Philadelphia city politics, which continues today.
In the 1940s, Philadelphia was the last major city in the United States to have nearly all of its political offices occupied by Republicans.Mayor Bernard Samuel and sheriff Austin Meehan led the Republican organization and were supported by many of the city's business interests. In 1947, city voters had elected Republicans to the mayor's office and to every seat on the city council. Over the next few years, cracks in the Republican wall began to emerge as independent voters and reform-minded Republicans began to join with Democrats in opposing what they saw as shortcomings of the Republican political machine. Some in the Democratic coalition objected to making common cause with the reformers, but Democratic City Committee chairman James A. Finnegan saw it as a chance to revitalize his moribund party, saying "good government is good politics."
In 1949, that coalition scored a victory in the election for "row offices" (minor citywide offices including treasurer, coroner, and controller), and the reformers used their new platforms to expose corruption in city government.A bipartisan commission of reformers proposed a new city charter in 1950. The new scheme would shift power away from city council to a strong mayor, something they believed would produce a system that would be more efficient and less susceptible to corruption. It also included provisions for civil service reform, requiring that city jobs be filled by merit selection rather than patronage. The higher-ranking executive branch positions in city government would almost all be filled by the mayor directly without council approval, which was intended to encourage the appointment of independent experts instead of distributing jobs as reward for political service. Voters approved the charter overwhelmingly in an April 1951 referendum, setting up a showdown in November for election to the revised city government.
Ward-level results in the mayor's race, with Clark in blue and Poling in red
Samuel did not run for re-election as mayor, leaving an open seat to be contested by the Republican nominee, Daniel A. Poling, and the Democrat, Joseph S. Clark Jr. Clark was a lawyer and United States Army officer who had served in World War II. Raised in an upper-class Republican family, he switched his party affiliation to the Democrats in 1928.After several unsuccessful attempts at public office in Philadelphia, he served as a Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Clark was known as a reformer, having been elected city controller two years earlier in 1949 on a platform of cleaning up corruption in the city. Despite being slandered as a communist for his membership in the Americans for Democratic Action, a left-wing group, Clark was victorious.
In those two years, Clark probed graft and theft in the Samuel administration and reported his findings to the voters.Many of those accused of crimes were convicted, and several committed suicide. Clark continued his push for reform by urging adoption of the new city charter. He campaigned for mayor with the promise of a "clean sweep of City Hall". He won the support of party Democrats in part by announcing his intention to run whether they backed him or not. In the July primary election, he triumphed easily over former City Solicitor Joseph Sharfsin by an eight-to-one margin.
The Republican nominee, Poling, was a Baptist preacher with a national reputation for integrity who GOP leaders hoped would help deflect the corruption charges leveled against the machine.Poling had worked for various charitable organizations and managed the Christian Herald . His son, Clark V. Poling, was one of the Four Chaplains lost aboard the SS Dorchester in World War II, and Poling served as pastor at the chapel erected in their memory. Poling was challenged in the primary by Walter P. Miller, a businessman who had the backing of independent Republicans. The ward leaders swung their support to Poling, who won by a six-to-one margin.
As in 1947 and 1949, Clark focused his campaign on the corruption of the Republican organization, calling it "the most corrupt political machine in the United States". 's endorsement for Clark; in an editorial, the editors said "the only way Philadelphia can get a change at City Hall is by throwing out the Republican ward-boss clique". Clark and his running mate, district attorney candidate Richardson Dilworth, bought radio time and made street-corner speeches. In one speech, Dilworth called the Republican leadership "political hogs and extremely avaricious gentlemen". In a broadcast, Clark called his non-politician opponent the ignorant tool of corrupt interests, saying "he can know nothing about the subject personally for he has not been in politics in Philadelphia long enough to find out." Poling campaigned vigorously with the full support of his party organization, but the effort fell short.Poling admitted that corruption existed, but pledged to root it out himself if elected. Philadelphia's two newspapers, the Inquirer and the Bulletin , had traditionally endorsed Republicans, but in 1951 favored the Democrats. Poling's association with the Republican party bosses clinched the Inquirer
The general election was a landslide for Clark, who won by more than 120,000 votes.With 58% of the vote, the Democrats had gained nearly 215,000 votes over the last election, in which they had been defeated. The Democrats' greatest gains were in the so-called "independent wards", where middle-class voters were more likely to split their tickets in pursuit of good government, and in the majority-black wards in North and West Philadelphia, where Clark's promise of civil service reform gained the confidence of black voters, who had traditionally been left out of the patronage system. As the result became apparent, he told reporters that it was a "great victory for the thinking people of Philadelphia and it ends a long hard fight."
This was the first time since 1881 (70 years) that a Democrat won the mayoralty, and the first time since 1911 (40 years) that a Republican nominee lost the mayoralty.It ushered a period of Democratic control of the mayoralty which continues to this day.
|Democratic||Joseph S. Clark Jr.||448,983||58.06|
|Republican||Daniel A. Poling||324,283||41.94|
Philadelphia elects a district attorney independently of the mayor, in a system that predates the charter change.Since 1957, district attorney elections have followed mayoral and city council elections by two years, but in 1951 both offices were up for election in the same year.
As in the mayor's race, the contest for district attorney pitted a Democratic reformer, Richardson Dilworth, against a representative of the Republican machine, Michael A. Foley. Dilworth, like Clark, was a former Republican who had been advocating reform for several years. He had run for mayor unsuccessfully in 1947, with Clark as his campaign manager.In 1949, he was elected City Treasurer. Democratic Party leaders had intended Dilworth to be their candidate for mayor again in 1951, but when Clark announced his candidacy, Dilworth agreed to run for district attorney instead. Foley, an attorney for the Insurance Company of North America, had organization backing in the primary but had no success against the Democratic wave in the general election. Dilworth was unopposed in the primary. In November, Dilworth won by almost as large a margin as Clark, taking just shy of 58% of the vote. He told reporters that the victory had a "sobering effect", adding: "the bigger the victory, the bigger the responsibility".
|Republican||Michael A. Foley||324,433||42.06|
Under the new charter, Philadelphians elected a seventeen-member city council in 1951, with ten members representing districts of the city, and the remaining seven being elected at-large. By the rules of the limited voting system for the at-large seats, each political party could nominate five candidates and voters could only vote for five, with the result that the majority party could only take five of the seven seats, leaving two for the minority party.The Democrats' citywide triumph continued into the city council races, as they took nine of ten districts and five of seven at-large seats.
Constance Dallas, the first woman to win election to City Council, was elected in a close vote in the 8th district (covering Chestnut Hill, Germantown, and Roxborough) over incumbent councilman Robert S. Hamilton. In the 1st district, which took in South Philadelphia, attorney Thomas I. Guerin defeated Dominic J. Colubiale. In the 2nd, the Republicans' lone district-level victory came as electrical equipment salesman William M. Phillips bested Louis Vignola, a labor union official. In the 3rd district, made up of the southern half of West Philadelphia, incumbent Harry Norwitch defeated another incumbent from the old city council, George Maxman, who had held office since 1936. In the 4th, which covered the northern half of West Philadelphia, state representative Samuel Rose defeated incumbent James G. Clark.
In the city's 5th district in North Philadelphia, another incumbent, Eugene J. Sullivan, was defeated by Raymond Pace Alexander, a local attorney and African American civil rights leader. In the 6th district, covering Kensington and Frankford, plumbers' union official Michael J. Towey won over William J. Glowacz. In the 7th, James Hugh Joseph Tate defeated Joseph A. Ferko, a local Mummers string band leader. Insurance broker Charles M. Finley defeated incumbent councilman William A. Kelley in the 9th district, which covered Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan. In Northeast Philadelphia's 10th district, incumbent Clarence K. Crossan, who had held office since 1925, went down to defeat against real estate broker John F. Byrne Sr.
In the at-large races, all five Democrats were elected, including city party chairman James A. Finnegan, former registration commissioner Victor E. Moore, Charter Commission secretary Lewis M. Stevens, attorney (and future district attorney of Philadelphia) Victor H. Blanc, and magistrate Paul D'Ortona. The Republican slate ran more than 100,000 votes behind the Democrats, with incumbent councilman Louis Schwartz and state senator John W. Lord Jr. narrowly edging out labor leader John B. Backhus, assistant district attorney Colbert C. McClain, and clergyman Irwin W. Underhill for the two minority party slots on the council.The Progressive Party, a left-wing party founded in 1948 around Henry A. Wallace's presidential bid, ran two candidates who took less than one percent of the vote.
|Democratic||Victor E. Moore||441,263||11.52|
|Democratic||Lewis M. Stevens||440,945||11.51|
|Democratic||Victor H. Blanc||439,942||11.49|
|Democratic||James A. Finnegan||439,820||11.48|
|Republican||Louis Schwartz (incumbent)||322,224||8.41|
|Republican||John W. Lord Jr. (incumbent)||321,984||8.41|
|Republican||John B. Backhus||321,540||8.39|
|Republican||Irwin W. Underhill||321,434||8.39|
|Republican||Colbert C. McClain||320,922||8.38|
|Progressive||Alice F. Liveright||11,193||0.03|
|Progressive||John L. Holton||9,649||0.03|
|Democratic||Thomas I. Guerin||45,859||57.78|
|Republican||Dominic J. Colubiale||33,511||42.22|
|Republican||William M. Phillips||47,814||58.60|
|Democratic||Harry Norwitch (incumbent)||50,286||61.77|
|Republican||James G. Clark||26,225||38.00|
|Democratic||Raymond Pace Alexander||37,918||58.10|
|Republican||Eugene J. Sullivan (incumbent)||27,340||41.90|
|Democratic||Michael J. Towey||47,072||55.05|
|Republican||William J. Glowacz||38,442||44.95|
|Democratic||James Hugh Joseph Tate||48,139||61.98|
|Republican||Joseph A. Ferko||29,529||38.02|
|Republican||Robert S. Hamilton||28,623||45.89|
|Democratic||Charles M. Finley||49,278||63.38|
|Republican||William A. Kelley (incumbent)||28,476||36.62|
|Democratic||John F. Byrne Sr.||50,083||60.36|
|Republican||Clarence K. Crossan (incumbent)||32,890||39.64|
In the race for city commissioners, each party nominates two candidates and the top three are elected. The office was a county office, a holdover from the time before consolidation of the townships in Philadelphia County into one city. The most important of the remaining duties of the commissioners in Philadelphia was the conduct of the city's elections; they also had responsibility for regulating weights and measures.As in the other races, the Democrats triumphed, electing both Maurice S. Osser and Thomas P. McHenry. McHenry was an incumbent who had served as commissioner since 1945, while Osser was new to the office, having previously worked as a lawyer and as the leader of the 16th ward. The Republican spot on the county commission went to Walter I. Davidson, a sales executive.
|Democratic||Thomas P. McHenry||441,499||28.88|
|Democratic||Maurice S. Osser||441,407||28.87|
|Republican||Walter I. Davidson||323,143||21.14|
|Republican||William G. Schmidt||322,834||21.12|
The Democrats' success continued down the ballot. The incumbent sheriff, Austin Meehan, did not run for re-election, and the race for county sheriff pitted two incumbent city councilmen against each other for the job: Democrat William M. Lennox and Republican Cornelius S. Deegan Jr.The office of sheriff was another holdover county office. The sheriff, whose job differed from that of the chief of police, was the chief law enforcement officer of the court. Lennox came out ahead, and would hold the job for the next twenty years.
Democrat Joseph A. Scanlon was elected over Republican Edward W. Furia for clerk of courts, an officer charged with the collection and disbursement of payments ordered by the courts.Scanlon, a former state legislator, served as clerk until 1957, when he died in office. For recorder of deeds, another county administrative office, Democrat Marshall L. Shepard was elected. Shepard was a Baptist minister who had also served as recorder of deeds in Washington, D.C. Two years later, the office was folded into the city government and converted to a civil service position.
Most of the common pleas court judges up for re-election were endorsed by both parties, but in the one contested race, Democrat John Morgan Davis defeated incumbent Republican Thomas Bluett.The Democrats also took eight of the fourteen magisterial district judge positions (a local court, the duties of which are now performed by the Philadelphia Municipal Court).
|Democratic||William M. Lennox||443,832||57.15|
|Republican||Cornelius S. Deegan Jr.||322,832||42.85|
|Democratic||Joseph A. Scanlon||441,223||57.77|
|Republican||Edward W. Furia||322,480||42.23|
|Democratic||Marshall L. Shepard||441,302||57.59|
|Republican||F. Earl Reed||324,951||42.41|
A statewide referendum on the ballot that day continued the work begun by the new city charter in asking voters to consolidate the city and county governments in Philadelphia. In 1854, all of the municipalities in Philadelphia County had been consolidated into one city, but many county offices still existed, duplicating the efforts of city officials. The merger would also bring county offices under the civil service protections of the new city charter. million for municipal improvements and $14 million for the gas works; both passed by a five-to-one margin.Merging the city and county governments had been defeated in a 1937 referendum, but in 1951 the question was overwhelmingly approved. Two other ballot proposals authorized the city to borrow $17
The 1951 election was the final blow to Philadelphia's once-dominant Republican machine. After winning some minor offices in 1953, the Republican organization quickly declined again. ... crass political bidding for favor at taxpayers' expense."Since that time, the Democratic Party has dominated the city's politics, with no other party electing a mayor or a majority of the city council. With Republicans no longer playing a significant role in Philadelphia's government, the main battle in city politics came to be between the Democratic Party's reformers and its organization stalwarts. By 1965, with most reformers out of government, the ascendant political culture in the city returned to what the Philadelphia Bulletin called "the old, narrow partisan view, the aroma of inside deals, back-scratching, and City Hall favoritism
Joseph Sill Clark Jr. was an American author, lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 116th Mayor of Philadelphia from 1952 to 1956 and as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1957 to 1969. Clark was the only Unitarian Universalist elected to a major office in Pennsylvania in the modern era.
Richardson K. Dilworth was an American Democratic Party politician who served as the 117th mayor of Philadelphia from 1956 to 1962. He twice ran as the Democratic nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, in 1950 and in 1962. He is to date the last White Anglo-Saxon Protestant mayor of Philadelphia.
Raymond Pace Alexander was a civil rights leader, lawyer, politician, and the first African American judge appointed to the Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas. In 1920, he became the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business. After graduation from Harvard Law School in 1923, Alexander became one of the leading civil rights attorneys in Philadelphia. He represented black defendants in high-profile cases, including the Trenton Six, a group of black men arrested for murder in Trenton, New Jersey. Alexander also entered the political realm, unsuccessfully running for judge several times. He finally ran for, and won, a seat on the Philadelphia City Council in 1951. After two terms in City Council, Alexander was appointed as the first black judge to sit on the Court of Common Pleas, where he served until his death in 1974.
Constance Hopkins Snow Dallas was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she served on the Philadelphia City Council as a representative of the city's 8th district. Born in New York and educated in Europe, Dallas came to Philadelphia as a teenager. After marriage and raising children, she entered local politics as a reform-minded Democrat. Following an unsuccessful run for City Council in 1947, she was elected in 1951, the first woman to serve in that legislative body.
Harry Norwitch was an organized labor leader and Democratic politician from Philadelphia.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 8, 1955, involved contests for mayor, district attorney, all seventeen city council seats, among other offices. Citywide, the Democrats took majorities of over 130,000 votes, continuing their success from the elections four years earlier. Richardson Dilworth, who had been elected district attorney in 1951, was elected mayor. Victor H. Blanc, a city councilman, was elected district attorney. The Democrats also kept fourteen of seventeen city council seats, losing one district seat while gaining another, and kept control of the other citywide offices. The election represented a further consolidation of control by the Democrats after their citywide victories of four years earlier.
William Milton Phillips was a Republican businessman and politician from Philadelphia.
Michael John Towey was an organized labor leader and Democratic politician from Philadelphia.
Victor Edward Moore was a Philadelphia businessman and Democratic politician. He served three terms on the Philadelphia City Council and as chairman of the Philadelphia Gas Works.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 3, 1953, was the second held under the city charter of 1951 and represented the first test of the Democratic city government of Mayor Joseph S. Clark Jr. In the 1951 election, the voters had elected a Democratic mayor for the first time in 67 years, breaking the Republican hold on political power in the city. They had also elected a majority-Democratic City Council along with Democrats for district attorney and other citywide offices. In 1953, the voters had the chance to continue the Democratic trend or to block it in the election for City Controller, Register of Wills, and various judges and magistrates. On election day, the Republican organization recovered from their 1951 losses, electing all their candidates citywide. Republicans celebrated the victory, but subsequent Democratic triumphs in the 1955 and 1959 elections made the 1953 result more of an aberration than a true comeback for the once-powerful Philadelphia Republican machine.
Emanuel Weinberg was a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served two-and-a-half terms on Philadelphia City Council.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 5, 1957, involved the election of the district attorney, city controller, and the remainder of a term for one city council seat, as well as several row offices and judgeships. Democrats were successful citywide, continuing a run of victories racked up after the passage of a new city charter in 1951 despite growing divisions between factions of the party. Victor H. Blanc, the incumbent district attorney, led the Democratic ticket to victory. They held the city council seat and took two citywide offices that Republicans had won in 1953. In the judges' elections, most were endorsed by both parties but in the one race that pitted a Democratic candidate against a Republican, the Democrats were successful in seating their candidate, former Congressman Earl Chudoff.
Paul D'Ortona was a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served as President of Philadelphia's City Council.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 3, 1959 involved contests for mayor, all seventeen city council seats, and several other executive and judicial offices. Citywide, the Democrats took majorities of over 200,000 votes, continuing their success from the elections four years earlier. Richardson Dilworth, who had been elected mayor in 1955, was re-elected over Republican nominee Harold Stassen. The Democrats also took fifteen of seventeen city council seats, the most seats allowed to any one party under the 1951 city charter. They further kept control of the other citywide offices. The election represented a continued consolidation of control by the Democrats after their citywide victories of the previous eight years.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 7, 1961, involved the election of the district attorney, city controller, and several judgeships. Democrats swept all of the city races but saw their vote totals much reduced from those of four years earlier, owing to a growing graft scandal in city government. District Attorney James C. Crumlish, Jr. and City Controller Alexander Hemphill, both incumbents, were returned to office. Several ballot questions were also approved, including one permitting limited sales of alcohol on Sundays.
Alexander Hemphill was a Democratic lawyer and politician from Philadelphia who served as City Controller from 1958 to 1968. After service in World War II and graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Hemphill embarked on a legal career before running for office. In his three terms as city controller, he exposed corruption and malfeasance, often to the discomfort of his fellow Democrats. He ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967 against the incumbent Democrat, James H. J. Tate, but was unsuccessful, and retired to a private law practice until his death in 1986.
Foster Alexander Dunlap was a Republican lawyer and politician from Philadelphia who served as City Controller from 1954 to 1958.
Philadelphia's City Council special election of 1962 was held to fill three vacant city council seats. The first was in the 8th district, when Democrat Alfred Leopold Luongo was appointed to the federal bench in September 1961. A second vacancy that same year occurred in the 10th district when Democrat John M. McDevitt resigned in June 1962 to become a Catholic priest. An at-large seat also became vacant when Victor E. Moore resigned in September 1962 to become the head of the Philadelphia Gas Works. Special elections were scheduled for November 6, 1962, to be held at the same time as the federal and gubernatorial elections that year. Democrats held two of the seats but lost the 8th district to a Republican.
Philadelphia's municipal election of November 5, 1963, involved contests for mayor, all seventeen city council seats, and several other executive and judicial offices. The Democrats lost vote share citywide and the Republicans gained one seat in City Council, but the Democratic acting mayor, James Hugh Joseph Tate, was elected to a full term and his party maintained their hold on the city government. The election was the first decline in the Democrats' share of the vote since they took control of the city government in the 1951 elections, and showed the growing tension between the reformers and ward bosses within their party.
Austin Andrew Meehan, Sr., was a Republican politician in Philadelphia who served as county sheriff. Before entering politics, Meehan ran his family's paving business and was known as a local basketball star. Beginning as an insurgent within the city's Republican Party, he soon won the favor of party bosses and climbed the ranks of Philadelphia's Republican organization. Meehan served two terms as county sheriff from 1944 to 1952 and was recognized as the unofficial head of the Republican Party in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He remained an influential party member until his death in 1961. He was the father of Billy Meehan.