4 Bitter Interlude, 1920-1922

AS LaGuardia stormed from one congressional battle to the next, he was observed with considerable interest by the Republican leaders in New York City. The presidency of the Board of Aldermen was open because Al Smith, holder of that position, had been elected Governor. Like the mayoralty, this post had usually been a Tammany plum, but Samuel Koenig and other Republican leaders were enthralled now with the idea that it might be within reach. The immigrant population of New York, whom they had not been able to woo away from the Democratic party, seemed to react enthusiastically to at least one Republican candidate -- Fiorello LaGuardia. His speeches in Congress for lower-class interests attracted attention far beyond his own district. The Jewish and Italian population of New York found in him a constant champion, battling antialien legislation, denouncing anti-Semitism, defending the immigrant against congressional xenophobes. In addition, he was a war hero -- and it was less than a year after the Armistice.

In the summer of 1919 LaGuardia learned that the Republican leaders had picked him to make the race in November for president of the Board of Aldermen.1 He wrote to Nicholas Murray Butler that he was "quite unhappy" at the assignment but would accept it "as a Party proposition."2 However, he was not completely distressed by the turn of events. Although he enjoyed his

____________________
1
NewYork Times, July 24, 1919.
2
Aug. 11, 1919, Butler Papers.

-48-

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