Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

By David R. Morgan; Robert E. England et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR From Frontier Oklahoma to a Global Economy

STATEHOOD TO WORLD WAR I (1907-18)

Democrats, particularly those who supported the Progressive agenda, fared quite well in the first state elections. Charles N. Haskell was elected governor; voters selected labor leader Peter Hanraty for mining inspector; Robert L. Williams was chosen as a supreme court justice; and William H. Murray was elected to the state house of representatives and became its first Speaker. Although women were denied the right to vote, the electorate chose Kate Barnard as commissioner of charities and corrections, a position she would use to protest the unfair treatment of Oklahoma's Indians and other disadvantaged groups. Too much, however, can be made of the Democrats' sweep of this and other elections before World War I. As historian Danney Goble argues, Oklahoma has been incorrectly labeled a one-party state, for at statehood and during the decade following, "the Democrats' electoral supremacy was tenuous."1 In the next two gubernatorial races, for instance, Democratic governors Lee Cruce in 1910 and Robert L. Williams in 1914 failed to receive a majority of votes cast. Williams won with less than 40 percent of the popular vote.

The Democratic party was in trouble. Its strength was being drained by the remarkable growth of the Socialist party in the state and by a split in the Progressive coalition. Demands for further social reforms by farm and labor groups on the left wing of the Democratic party alienated party conservatives. As a result, the Progressive movement divided into two camps: one wishing social change within the framework of orderly economic progress and the second seeking more radical change to benefit those groups being

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