Election 1944: Dewey and the labor vote (9-19-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 19, 1944)


Background of news –
Dewey and the labor vote

By Jay G. Hayden

Seattle, Washington –
Sidney Hillman’s CIO Political Action Committee is both the main organizational bulwark and the greatest single threat to President Roosevelt’s fourth-term candidacy.

Due partly to its own aggressiveness, but more to division of the Democratic Party, the PAC has assumed pro-Roosevelt leadership in nearly all the dozen states that Governor Thomas E. Dewey’s campaign train has traversed in the last 10 days.

With only two or three exceptions, the basic pattern in these states, stretching from New York and Pennsylvania to Montana and Washington, is the same.

Ever since 1938, Republicans have been winning state and local elections, until today they all but monopolize the non-federal public payrolls. Old-line Democrats not only have lost incentive (private jobs pay better, anyhow, these days) but a great many of them blame Mr. Roosevelt for their fall from political power. In most of the states visited, the PAC took over the New Deal driver’s seat because no one else seemed to want it.

There are notable exceptions to the latter rule, as in Montana, where the bitterest sort of struggle for control of the Democratic Party is being waged. The principal contestants in Montana are now the veteran Senator Burton K. Wheeler, notoriously anti-Roosevelt, and former Congressman Jerry J. O’Connell, now state director of the PAC.

CIO leader currently on top

Mr. O’Connell presently is on too, to the extent that the Democratic nominee for governor, Leif Erickson, is his man.

Mr. Wheeler, in 1940, engineered the defeat of the O’Connellite Democratic Governor Ayres by the simple process of backing his Republican opponent, Sam C. Ford.

The point of the matter is that Mr. Wheeler must face the voters himself in 1946 and hence his political life is more than ever at stake. He certainly is supporting Governor Ford again this year and the hope of Mr. Dewey’s managers in Montana rests largely on the calculation that Mr. Wheeler especially cannot afford to permit President Roosevelt to carry his state, if it is within his power to prevent it.

Similarly in Idaho, the CIO sored a signal victory when the conservative Democratic Senator, D. Worth Clark, was defeated for renomination by the cowboy crooner, Glenn Taylor. All straw votes taken in Idaho have placed it in the Republican column this year, both for President and Senator, a condition attributed in large part to dissatisfaction of Senator Clark and other old-school Democrats because of the rising power of the CIO in their party.

Union rivalry a factor

In Washington, likewise the intra-Democratic ferment is working, but in somewhat different fashion. The friction here is not so much between the Hillmanites and the old-school Democrats as it is among rival factions of organized labor.

Dave Beck, West Coast head of the AFL Teamsters, seemed well on his way toward running everything in this state until one Arthur B. Langlie arose to put him in his place, first as Mayor of Seattle and then as Governor.

The rising power of the CIO within the Democratic Party now has faced Mr. Beck with a new threat.

This intraunion strife is illustrated in the Seattle Congressional district, where Rep. Warren G. Magnuson stepped out to run for Senator. The Democratic nominee for Mr. Magnuson’s seat is Hugh De Lacy, a college professor, who was backed by the CIO. Against him, the Republicans have nominated Robert Harlan, who was state president of John L. Lewis’ United Mine Workers until he was named state director of labor.

The effectiveness of the attempt Mr. Dewey is preparing to make to coin this labor division into votes for himself is likely to prove the most interesting phase of his drive all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles this week.