Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Primary Bill in 1903

Chapter XIV of Part One of Political Reform in Wisconsin (1910) by Emanuel L. Philipp (see Introduction and Contents)


When the legislature convened in January, 1903, Gov. La Follette had an overwhelming majority in the assembly, but he had failed to secure a majority of the senate, although he did succeed in electing ten of the eighteen new members of that body, R. Reukema having been chosen by the voters of the Fourteenth district, Milwaukee, to succeed William H. Devos, resigned to accept the post of collector of the port of Milwaukee.1 

The lineup, therefore, was conservative republicans 16, conservative democrats 2; La Follette republicans 14, La Follette democrat 1; conservatives 18, La Follette supporters 15.


The primary election bill, a substitute for No. 97A, was reported to the assembly by the committee on privileges and elections on Feb. 2, and it was passed four days later, Feb. 6, by a vote of 70 to 19. Of the 19 votes against the bill 8 were cast by republicans and 11 by democrats.

While this may not be record time, still there are few deliberative bodies that can show better speed on so important a measure, one intended to change the entire system of making nominations of candidates. Introduced on Monday; passed to engrossment and third reading on Wednesday; reported correct by both committees on Thursday and put on the calendar for Friday; passed on Friday and messaged to the senate the following Monday.

In the meantime, it must be remembered that a number of amendments were proposed and considered--at least they were rejected. Assemblyman Ray, speaker of the assembly at the previous session, wanted more time to look into the measure and moved to make it a special order for Tuesday of the following week, Feb. 11, but his suggestion was voted down. When the hour came to take up the bill on Wednesday, Mr. Wallrich made another attempt to postpone action, but his motion was defeated, 62 to 36. Mr. Wallrich, by the way, had been counted among the administration men.

Then came the amendments.2

The previous question was then moved by Mr. Barker and carried by a unanimous vote, and the bill was ordered to engrossment and third reading by a vote of 76 to 20.

The following day the bill was reported correct by the two committees, and on February 6, four days after its introduction by the committee, it passed the assembly by a vote of 70 to 19.

It is clear from an examination of the vote on the several amendments that there were a number of members of the lower house among those who voted for its final passage who believed the measure could be improved, but the administration organization stood solidly against any and all changes. It was determined to "put it up to the senate" in its original form, and there were votes enough in the house to follow out the administration program to the letter. The appeal to the voters against the action of the senate in 1901 had succeeded because all the radicals in the state had been united in a common cause. It was believed that, should the senate repeat its action of two years before, another appeal could be made with equal success, and success at the polls was the thing most to be desired.

On February 9 the primary bill was messaged to the senate from the assembly and referred to the committee on privileges and elections, consisting of Senators Morse, Miller, Martin, Munson, and Whitehead, three administration men and two stalwarts. This committee held the measure for consideration from that date until March 26, on which day they reported it with certain amendments relating to the publication of notices to be made by county clerks, the percentage of voters required on nomination papers, and the notice to he given by the secretary of state to county clerks.

After the report of the committee had been read, Senator Whitehead moved that all rules interfering with the immediate consideration of the bill be suspended, which motion prevailed. Senator Hatton alone voting in the negative. After several fruitless attempts had been made by Senators Miller and Martin to secure an adjournment until evening, amendments by individual senators were presented.3

Senator Gaveney then offered an amendment in the form of a referendum section which was different from any that previously had been suggested. He proposed to submit to the voters at the election to be held in November, 1904, the question of applying the primary plan to the nomination of candidates for elective state officers, congressmen and members of the state legislature, the bill to go into force immediately so far as it related to elective city and county officers: The call for the yeas and nays on this amendment resulted in the first "lineup" vote on the primary question of the two factions in the senate, as follows:

Yeas--Senator Beach, Eaton, Gaveney, Green, Hagemeister, Johnson, Kreutzer, McDonough, Morse, Mosher, North, O'Neil, Randolph, Riordan, Roehr, Rogers, Whitehead, and Willy—-18.

Nays--Senators Bird, Burns, Hatton, Hudnall, Martin, McGillivray, Merton, Miller, Munson, Reukema, Saran, Stout, Wipperman, Wolff, and Wyli--15.

Senator Whitehead then moved that "all rules interkring with the concurrence of No. 97A at this the be suspended," which motion was carried with but three senators voting in the negative. They were Senators Hatton, McGillivray, and Munson. The bill was then read a third the and concurred in as amended, the vote being the same as the one by which Senator Gaveney's amendment was adopted.

March 27 the bill was messaged to the assembly which, on March 31, concurred in all the senate amendments with the exception of the referendum section proposed by Senator Gaveney. It was returned to the senate on April 1 by message and that body voted to adhere to the amendment by a vote of 19 to 14, Senator Bird acting with the stalwarts when the question was put. The bill was then messaged back to the assembly and that body, on motion of Mr. Bay, refused to recede from its position and asked for a conference. Senators Morse, Whitehead, and Beach were appointed to represent the senate and Messrs. Andrew, Frear, and Le Roy were appointed as conferees for the lower house.






1. The newly elected administration members of the senate were: H. C. Martin, W. H. Hatton, James H. Stout, and James J. McGillivray, all re-elected; H. P. Bird, R. Reukema, H. 0. Wipperman, George B. Hudnall, Christian Sarau, and George Wylie. Ernst Merton of Waukesha, a democrat who had been elected to succeed Senator A. M. Jones, was counted among the administration supporters, as he generally voted for administration measures during the session. The hold-over administration senators were: E. E. Burns, George W. Wolff, George F. Miller, and Oliver G. Munson.

There were eleven hold-over senators who were members of the Wisconsin republican league, as follows: Henry Hagemeister, J. H. Green, Julius E. Roehr, 0. W. Mosher, William O'Neil, T. A. Willy, E. D. Morse, John M. Whitehead, Frank McDonough, D. E. Riordan, and John C. Gaveney. Senators A. L. Kreutzer and Barney A. Eaton, both members of the league, were re-elected. Otis W. Johnson, C. C. Rogers, and Z. P. Beach were the newly elected conservative senators. William 0. North and Samuel W. Randolph were conservative democrats and as a rule acted with the stalwarts during the session.

2. Mr. Bay proposed to strike out the words "state officers" and "United States senators," but his motion was defeated, 74 to 21.

Mr. Thompson moved to amend by setting the date of holding the primary in April, instead of September. Motion defeated by viva voce vote.

Mr. Crowley offered an amendment in the form of a new section providing that the voters might write in the names of their choice for United States senators on a blank line provided for that purpose. Rejected, 65 to 30.

Mr. Coffland then offered an amendment in the form of a new section as a substitute for section 22, which amendment provided for the election at primaries of delegates to attend county conventions at which delegates to state conventions were to be chosen. The state conventions were to adopt platforms for the state and congressional districts and to elect party committees. This motion was lost, no roll call being demanded.

Mr. Karel then offered an amendment making it unlawful for appointive state, county or city officers to circulate nomination papers and providing a penalty for violation of this provision. The prohibition did not apply to officers or employes who circulated petitions in their own behalf. This amendment was lost by a vote of 61 to 34.

Mr. Haderer moved to refer the bill back to the committee on privileges and elections, which motion was defeated by a vote of 68 to 28.

Mr. Haderer moved an amendment in the form of a substitute bill; his motion was lost, no roll call being ordered.

Franklin Johnson's motion to refer the bill to the committee on judiciary was voted down.

Mr. Osborn then moved to amend by providing that state officers be exempted from the operations of the bill, which amendment was lost by a vote of 82 to 12.

3. Senator Kreutzer offered an amendment in the form of a substitute--the senate journal does not disclose its nature--which was rejected, only four senators, Hatton, Kreutzer, North, and Randolph, voting for it.

Senator Rogers submitted an amendment striking out the members of the state legislature from the list of officers to be nominated at the primary, which was rejected by the entire vote of the senate with the single exception of Senator Rogers himself.