A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Reaching beyond Cook County: The Election of 1896

THE COUNTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE'S ELECTION of Lorimer as chairman in the spring of 1895 signified his arrival as the most powerful factor in Cook County Republican politics. But in order to maintain and solidify his position, Lorimer had to participate actively in all levels of politics. The revolution in voter preference that had occurred since 1893--revealed in the striking Republican victories of 1894 and 1895--offered a tempting set of prizes to whomever controlled the party machinery. Lorimer had temporarily vanquished his rivals, but they would lose no opportunity to contest his leadership. In this regard, the elections of 1896 loomed up with particular significance.

For Lorimer, the 1896 contests furnished an opportunity to strengthen his hold over the Cook County Republican party and to extend his influence to the state level. He was primarily concerned with the county and state tickets and only interested in the presidential contest as a means to further his local power. But the national race also held certain dangers. His party rivals, by endorsing a popular presidential candidate, could sweep control out of his hands. Thus, although Lorimer did not and could not see himself as a "president- maker," he had to become involved in the presidential contest in order to protect his local interests.

Of first moment for Lorimer was the state ticket, and here the choices were clear-cut. Henry L. Hertz wanted to be state treasurer and he could count upon the support of the Cook County organization.1 For governor, Lorimer favored the tall, raw-boned, and rough-

____________________
1
The state treasurer was elected for a two-year term. The office was considered

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