Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 30, 2009


Page 15



Groff Is Elected, Along With Banker, Lawyers, Ex-Mayor




Candidates in 1898 for the “Board of Freeholders,” which would draft a proposed new charter for the City of Los Angeles, did not do much in the way of campaigning.

As noted last week, each of two tickets had a surrogate in the form of a vocal Los Angeles daily newspaper that clamored for its election.

First, there was a ticket chosen by a “convention” that relegated to itself the chore (or prerogative) of deciding who the candidates would be, with the expectation of voters rubbing-stamping their choices…sort of the way the Breakfast Club operates today in Los Angeles in connection with State Bar Board of Governors elections. The Democratic Los Angeles Herald instantly embraced the slate. But the Los Angeles Times, then ardently Republican (ah, how Times has changed) balked because the ticket was dominated by non-Republicans in what was then a Republican city.

That first slate—denominated the “Citizens Non-Partisan” ticket—qualified for the ballot through signatures on petitions; attempts were made to qualify three additional tickets; two were eliminated on technical grounds; the third—the “Non-Partisan” ticket, comprised predominantly of Republicans, mostly lawyers and businessmen—did qualify, and gained support of the Times, as well as the Express.

The present subject of this series is the original tenants of the Wilcox Building. All this does relate to one of those tenants, Lewis A. Groff, a candidate on the “Non-Partisan” ticket. I can produce no quotes from Groff in connection with that election, no information on his stances…yet zero in on this particular city election, reflecting as it does much about the time—including newspapers being organs of political parties.

Viewed now, 101 years later, it seems anomalous that there was so much partisanship interwoven in an election in which all of the disparate parties were seeking to promote nonpartisanship in city government.

If truth be told, whichever ticket had prevailed, the result would have been a proposed charter that would—if approved by voters in the city and ratified by the state Legislature—have established a civil service system and put into place the processes of the initiative and referendum.

As it turned out, four men were on both tickets. It seems that few Republicans attended the “convention,” yet there was a desire to have Republicans represented on the slate. So, members of the GOP were named who weren’t in attendance and hadn’t assented. Two were attorney R.H.F. Variel, former district attorney of Plumas County, and merchant M.J. Newmark.

Both allowed their names to remain on the ticket—but also hopped aboard the rival “non-partisan” ticket.

Also nominated at the convention was Fred Eaton, who opted not to run for the Board of Freeholders in the July 8 election. (Later that year, he did run for the post of mayor, on the Republican ticket, and won.) In Eaton’s place on the citizens’ ticket was Republican H.T. Lee, a charter member of the Los Angeles Bar Assn. in 1878, and of the reorganized bar association in 1888; his name also appeared on the “Non-Partisan” ticket.

Albert M. Stephens, who had served a judge of the county court (forerunner of the Superior Court) and was the first president of the resuscitated Los Angeles Bar Assn., was chosen at the convention, and then additionally became a token Democrat on the Times-backed ticket.

There were 31 candidates, and the 15 attracting the most number of votes would be elected. All four of those whose names were on both tickets—endorsed by both the Times and the Herald—were chosen, with Stephens attaining the most votes of any of the candidates (1,573). Seven, including Groff, whose names were only on the Non-Partisan ticket won, and four whose monikers were only on the Citizens’ Non-Partisan slate were elected.

Gaining office, aside from those mentioned, were Kaspare Cohn (NP), who would go on to found a bank which became known as Union Bank & Trust Co., and a hospital later known as Cedars of Lebanon, which merged into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Albert H. Crutcher (NP), an attorney in practice with one W.E. Dunn, their firm to merge in 1903 with that of Bicknell, Gibson & Trask, and now known as Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Dr. J.H. Davisson (NP), former president of the state Board of Health; realtor and civic leader William M. Garland (CNP); attorney M.L. Graff (NP), often confused in news stories with Groff; Henry T. Hazard (CNP), a former Los Angeles mayor;  John F. Humphreys (CNP), a founder of the Chamber of Commerce and a former president of the Los Angeles City Council; J.B. Millard (CNP), an elementary school principal; Octavius Morgan (NP), architect; and attorney H.W. O’Melveny (NP), a partner in Graves, O’Melveny & Shankland…which became O’Melveny & Myers.

Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company

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