The 1906 New York gubernatorial race was one for the ages: The current president stepping in for a future presidential candidate, a propaganda war, and one of America’s most flamboyant demagogues. But when the results came in, 1906 would prove to be a year where the votes were decided on a clash between the old machine politics and the new power of media, with all the same petty grudges and self-interest as the old ways. My interest was piqued in this race after writing about J.R. Brinkley, a snake oil doctor who pioneered broadcast radio use for campaigns and also fought against the party and medical establishment, which eventually led to his downfall. Rewinding to the beginning of the century, we see a lot of the same feelings of populist sentiment boiling over, spilling into all the political races.
To start, 1904 was a good year for candidates who were favored by the common man. Theodore Roosevelt, promising a square deal for all, was swept into office by a nearly 20-point popular vote win and New York stayed Republican, this time by 11%. Though it had started to transition from a tossup to a Republican state in national elections, New York’s gubernatorial contests remained stubbornly close. Roosevelt was attributed with Frank Higgins 5 point win that year but the Democratic candidate was widely considered to be weak.
D-Cady Herrick was the lieutenant of the long-time boss of Albany County, the one purplish dot located in central eastern upstate New York. Herrick was originally the DA of the county and dispensed patronage, eventually taking a high paid position that allowed more time to dedicate to party activities. After his boss helped Grover Cleveland win the presidential convention and was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in 1885, Herrick took over the machine himself. By the time he decided to run for governor, he had the stench of a corrupt backroom dealer. Even worse politically, his close ties to the upstate Albany machine meant that his rivals in downstate New York City were not as inclined to help him. The map below shows the 1904 results and where the votes were coming from.