A campaign to remember

Edward Edwardswas a product of Jersey City Mayor Frank Haugue’s Hudson County political machine. He served two years as a State Senator before winning election as the Governor of New Jersey in 1919. It was in that primary that Hague emerged as a dominant player in statewide politics: aided by a huge plurality in Hudson County, Edwards won the Democratic primary by a 54%-46% margin over former State Senator Edward Nugent, the Essex County Democratic Chairman. The big issue that year was Prohibition, and Edwards (the anti-prohibition, “wet” candidate) won a narrow 52%-48% victory over a wealthy Trenton businessman, Newton Bugbee.In the 1920 presidential election, Warren Harding carried New Jersey in a landslide and helped Republicans sweep elections for the State Assembly. The GOP won 58 of the 60 Assembly seats. In those days, New Jersey Governors could serve only one three-year term; the state Constitution had term limits that prohibited any Governor from seeking re-election. So Edwards decided to run for the U.S. Senate against an incumbent, Republican Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen. Frelinghuysen, a Somerset County Republican and a cousin of future Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, had spent six years as a State Senator (and one as Senate President) and several years as President of the State Board of Education and as President of the State Board of Agriculture when he unseated freshman Democratic Senator James Martine by a 56%-39% margin in 1916. In the 1916 election, Wilson was re-elected to the Presidency, but lost his home state to Republican Charles Evans Hughes. The 1922 campaign became a sort of referendum on the national Republican agenda. It was the mid-term election for the scandal-plagued Harding. Frelinghuysen supported Prohibition, Blue Laws, restrictions on immigration, and mandatory English lessons for foreign born citizens. Edwards campaigned on the slogan “Wine, Women and Song,” supporting the repeal of the 18th amendment, the legalization of beer and wine, and a cultural liberalism that appealed to the state’s ethnic voters. Edwards beat Frelinghuysen, 55%-44%, and the Democrats picked up five seats in New Jersey’s 12-member House delegation. His 11-point margin of victory helped Hague’s gubernatorial candidate, Judge George Silzer (a former Middlesex County Democratic Chairman who had lost the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1910 to Woodrow Wilson), win by a narrow margin. Five Republicans lined sough the GOP nomination to take on Edwards in 1928: former Senator Frelinghuysen, seeking a political comeback after six years in the insurance business; Republican National Committeeman Hamilton Fish Kean, a banker and the brother of former U.S. Senator John Kean (as well as the grandfather of future Governor Thomas Kean) who had unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Walter Edge in the 1924 U.S. Senate primary; former Governor Edward Stokes, a South Jerseyan who had served as Governor from 1905 to 1908; former two-term Congressman Edward Gray, a former Secretary to Governor Stokes who had finished third in the 1924 primary behind Edge and Kean; and Republican State Committee Vice Chairwoman Lillian Ford Feickert, the former President of the New Jersey Suffrage Association and the first woman to seek a major party nomination for U.S. Senate. The primary was especially bitter. Stokes, seeking a political comeback after losing two races for the U.S. Senate and one for Governor, charged that Kean and Frelinghuysen were using their personal wealth to buy a U.S. Senate seat. He opposed the direct election of U.S. Senators, claiming that only the very wealthy could afford to mount expensive statewide campaigns. The primary results were close: Kean was the winner with 34% of the vote, followed by Stokes (29%) and Frelinghuysen (28%). Feickert and Gray each received 5%. The turnout in the 1928 primary was 497,580 — 58% more than the 215,242 votes cast in the 2002 Republican U.S. Senate primary. In the general election, Prohibition was again a key issue, and Edwards told voters he was “as wet as the Atlantic Ocean.” But in early October, Kean took an unlikely position, saying he too was “wet.” While Kean lost the support of the Anti-Saloon League, but was able to take Prohibition off the table in the Senate race. New Jersey followed the national political tide, with Republican Herbert Hoover carrying New Jersey by 309,000 votes over Democrat Alfred E. Smith. Kean defeated Edwards by over 233,000 votes, 58%-42%. Edwards fell upon hard times after leaving the Senate in 1929. He went bankrupt following the state market crash, broke his political ties with Hague (who refused to support him for Governor in 1931), and was charged with fraud and corruption. In January, 1931, Edwards committed suicide. Kean also became a one-term Senator. The new Democratic President, Franklin Roosevelt, was popular in New Jersey, and Kean had opposed the early part of the New Deal in the U.S. Senate. His opponent was the popular incumbent Governor, A. Harry Moore, a close ally of Hague. Moore defeated Kean by 231,000 votes, 58%-41%.

A campaign to remember