Thursday, July 21, 2011
‘Mac’ Faces Aggressive Challenge From Democratic Lawyer
By ROGER M. GRACE
Republican James McLachlan was on a winning streak.
In 1900, he regained a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives he had lost four years earlier. That contest was discussed here in detail; his adversary, in ill health, did not do any stumping until late in the campaign. Two years later, four years later, and six years later, he faced a weak Democratic rival.
The Democratic challenger in 1902 drew 8,075 votes (27 percent) to McLachlan’s 19,407 (64.8 percent). The Socialist and Prohibitionist Party candidates split the breadcrumbs left over.
McLachlan sank only slightly in 1904 (garnering 64.2 percent) and in 1906 (racking up 56.8 percent).
Then came a spirited challenge in 1908. The competitor was Jud R. Rush, who had studied law while a justice of the peace in El Monte. He came to the City of Los Angeles in 1893, was admitted to the bar that year, and entered into a law partnership two years later with Le Compte Davis. Davis would become a co-counsel to Clarence Darrow in his defense of the McNamara brothers, who ultimately admitted their key roles in the Oct. 1, 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building.
For awhile the firm was “Davis, Rush & Willis.” The two Democratic stalwarts linked up with Republican activist Franklin R. Willis, a former deputy DA. Willis in 1908 won the GOP nomination for a Superior Court judgeship, with the backing of the Los Angeles Bar Assn., and was elected.
Rush, a Populist in 1896, was the nominee on that year’s Democratic/Populist fusion ticket for Los Angeles city attorney, a post he failed to capture.
He sought the Democratic nomination for Congress at the party’s district convention in 1900. The lawyer came out second among three candidates on the initial balloting but his support dwindled to nil as balloting continued.
In 1908, he did received the nomination and, to many, looked like a winner.
The view is expressed in the Sept. 14 issue of the Bakersfield Californian that “the eloquent attorney promises McLachlan the fight of his life.”
In the final phase of the campaign, Rush went for the jugular. He portrayed McLachlan as an effete, do-nothing office-holder.
The Los Angeles Herald’s issue of Nov. 3, 1908, contains a statement by the chairs of the Democratic County Central Committee and the local Domocratic Congressional Committee. It includes this:
“In one of his addresses Mr. [Jud R.] Rush has shown by extracts from the official record that during his entire term as a member of the Fifty-ninth congress, including both sessions, Mr. McLachlan spoke a total of 197 words on the floor of the house, and by reckoning his salary and expenses together, it is found that these 197 words cost the people a trifle more than $71 each [$1,740 in terms opf today’s dollar].
“Mr. Rush also proved that during the entire first session of the Sixtieth congress, all the work done by Mr. McLachlan in behalf of the Seventh district could easily have been done in one day’s time.
“Again, Mr. Rush demonstrated that no bill introduced by Mr. McLachlan, other than pension bills, ever became a law; that every appropriation for public improvements in this district passed the senate first, and was favorably reported by the house itself, and that no one of them ever passed the house through the efforts of Mr. McLachlan.”
Rush might well have proven himself a worthy office-holder had he ever had an office to hold. He lost the race against McLachlan and did not run for a public post again.
Vigorous though his campaign was, it was ill-starred. It was a presidential election year; William Jennings Bryant was the Democratic candidate; Rush backed him; the Seventh congressional district (then comprised of Los Angeles County) did not. The Nov. 1 issue of the Los Angeles Times notes:
“Of the 100,000 voters registered in the county there are about 60,000 Republicans, 26,000 Democrats and 15,000 of all other parties.”
The article comments: “Jud Rush is likely to lead the Democratic ticket in the county; in many districts he will lead Bryan by two to one.”
William Howard Taft won the presidency and McLachlan retained his congressional seat—doing so, however, with only 51.9 percent of the vote. Rush got 35.4 per cent and the balance was divided among the Socialist, Prohibition, and Independence League candidates.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company