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Political Conventions

9/3/2014:

The Constitutional Convention was over and it was time to concentrate on the October election. The Republican Convention convened in Fargo on August 22nd with many of the old political war horses already on the ground promoting themselves or their candidates. Former Governors Pierce and Ordway were among those aspiring for Congressional seats. General Harrison Allen and John Miller were in a heated contest for the gubernatorial nod, which became the main focus of the convention. Allen was backed by McKenzie, Ordway and E. A. Williams; and John Miller was backed by supporters from the eastern half of North Dakota, which included M. N. Johnson of Lakota.

The contest hung on who chaired the convention. If E. A. Williams were elected chairman, he could sway the votes for Allen; and if Johnson was elected, Miller would most likely become the candidate for governor. After a number of votes and recounts, Johnson was declared chairman by a one vote margin and Allen withdrew his name for consideration. E. S, Tyler, also nominated, withdrew for the sake of harmony in the party.

John Miller was the most logical candidate, for as manager of the Dwight Farm and Land Company, he was looked upon as a successful businessman, but more importantly – he was a farmer. His presence on the Republican ticket would draw many from the Farmer’s Alliance, which was currently aligned with the Democrats in their fight against the railroads and flour mills.

The highlight of the Democratic Convention, meeting in Fargo on August 29thwas the appearance of Congressman William Springer of Illinois. Only a year earlier he had led the opposition against statehood for North and South Dakota. Eventually, he brokered an agreement in the US Senate and authored the legislation that led to the Omnibus Bill. He was hailed as a hero who had the gratitude of every citizen of the Territory. Since many Democrats opposed the constitution, Springer encouraged them to vote for it and effect the necessary changes at a later time.

The Democratic convention was much quieter than the Republican event. Captain M. L. McCormack of Grand Forks was the favorite for Governor, but he chose not to run, so William Roach of Larimore was selected. Unlike the election for the Constitutional Convention, there was no minority representation clause for the election of state officials, so the chance of success for a Democratic candidate was minimal. It was not a question of who they chose to run, it was a question of who was willing to accept a nomination. It appeared the saying was true, that Democrats in Dakota were like spring flowers – they would soon be gone.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune August 30, 1889

Early History of North Dakota: Essential Outlines of American History, Clement Augustus Lounsberry Washington D. C., Liberty Press 1919.

Grand Forks Weekly Herald March 22, 1889