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Front Page » November 1, 2012 » Carbon County News » 2-term tradition bites the dust in election of 1940 "from...
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2-term tradition bites the dust in election of 1940 "from the Archives"

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If there was ever an historic election, the election of 1940 was it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had been President of the United States since 1932, working through the worst years of the depression. He had battled back a challenge in the 1936 election to remain President.

In 1940, he was faced with a decision. Should he run for an unprecedented consecutive third term or should he allow someone else to take over an economy that was slowly improving and face an impending war effort that everyone but the most avid isolationist could see was coming.

Reportedly, early in the year he had made the decision not to run and told other potential Democratic candidates that they should look toward being nominated. However, this all changed in the spring when Roosevelt saw what was going on in Europe. The Nazi Army poured into France and drove the allied forces off the beaches of Dunkirk and onto the British Isles. That fall the Battle of Britain had begun. This and the fact that Democratic leaders feared that he was the only one who could keep the Republicans at bay sent his hat into the ring.

His opponent in the election was Wendell L. Willkie, and industrialist who had little government experience. He became the compromise candidate due to a fight for parts of the Republican party between Thomas Dewey of New York, Robert Taft of Ohio and Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan. All were strong in certain areas, but had some great weaknesses, too. This led to Willkie being the candidate to face Roosevelt. Willkie had been a strong critic of Roosevelt's economic policies and his plans to break up some industries as well as to put government in competition for electrical generation with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Locally, the Sun Advocate reported for months about the upcoming campaign and the local and state offices that were open. Of statewide note was the candidacy of local man Reese M. Reese for State Auditor. In 1936, he had been elected the State Treasurer, the highest state office ever attained by a Carbon County citizen. So his run for the State Auditor's position was a surprise.

On election day the Democrats in the country again took many of the prizes home. Roosevelt defeated Willkie by five million popular votes nationwide and took the electoral college vote 449 to 82. Reese was also successful in his bid for the state position. Carbon county came out in big numbers for the local man and in Carbon alone the count was 5,637 to Republican Walter Day's 1,706 votes.

"Out of the avalanche of votes that were cast in Carbon County Tuesday came a clear mandate to the Democratic Party to 'carry on' for at least another two years," stated the Sun Advocate on Nov. 7. "The highest vote in the county's history was recorded, as approximately 7,400 citizens cast their ballots, 1,000 more than four years ago, the highest vote total up to that time."

The paper reported some interesting things went on during the election.

In Price the Chief of Police wore a pro-Willkie badge around town on election day as he interacted with people.

Marion Bliss, the standing Carbon County Sheriff, was elected once again, becoming the only Republican the be elected in the county during that election.

The Central Price voting district did not report its ballots until noon on the day after the election because the voting in that district was so heavy.

Some voters got mixed up on voting procedures and ended up voting for both candidates for president. This caused their ballots to be invalid.

Two Carbon County commission seats were up for grabs, too. At the time one of the seats on the commission was a two year term seat and the other two were four year seats. The two year seat was taken by "Bry" Miller over W.E. McIntire and the four year seat went to J. Orvel Peterson who beat out Bert Bunnell. The county attorney's job went to Edward Sheya.

It was an unprecedented election, one in which the country met trepidation about the future with bravery. While no one would say it, the war in Europe and Asia was on everyone's mind and many knew eventually the United States would be drawn into it in some way, at some time.

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