Draft:Upton Sinclair 1934 California gubernatorial campaign

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Upton Sinclair 1934 California gubernatorial campaign
EPIC Pamphlet by Upton Sinclair.gif
Campaign1934 California gubernatorial election
CandidateUpton Sinclair
American author and political activist

Sheridan Downey

AffiliationDemocratic Party
StatusAnnounced: September 14, 1933
Official nominee: August 28, 1934
Lost election: November 6, 1934
Headquarters1513 Sunset Ave. Pasadena[1]
Key peopleCharles L. Heiser
(state organizer)
[2] Herbert H. Saunders
(State Organizer of Sinclair for Governor clubs)
Slogan"Champion of the People"[4]
"End Poverty In California"[5]

The 1934 California gubernatorial election of Upton Sinclair was launched on September 14, 1933 when Sinclair announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the governorship of California in the 1934 California gubernatorial election after changing his voter registration from Socialist to Democratic.


On September 14, 1933 Sinclair changed his voter registration from Socialist to Democratic in order to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination after seven members of the Santa Monica Bourbon Democrat delegation told him that they would sign his nomination petition if he switched party. Sinclair stated that "Although I swore I would keep out of politics and stick to writing, I was interested and agreed to the plan," and continued on to convey his twelve step plan for California.[6][7][8]

Campaign Developments 1933[edit]


Shortly after announcing his campaign as a Democrat Sinclair was ousted from the Socialist Party due to him acting out against Socialist principles, even though Sinclair had stated that he would still push for Socialists policies, with many of the party and even Sinclair's own son supporting the move, but there was speculation about the possibility of liberal Republican Senator Hiram Johnson and Sinclair joining and creating their own party as both held positive views of President Roosevelt.[9][10]


By mid-October controversy arose when pacifist Rosika Schwimmer issued a suit claiming $100,000 in damages from Sinclair and William Fox as she claimed that she was made to appear as an arch-hypocrite in the book "Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox".[11] Despite the controversy that arose over his Socialist past and the lawsuit both Sinclair and his wife were still invited to the White House for tea with Roosevelt.[12] Another candidate, Sacramento Attorney Sheridan Downey, entered the race in late October.[13]


He launched one his first attacks when he described himself as the only Democratic candidate with a definite program and described the future Republican nominee as a reactionary and went on further stating that late Senator Robert M. La Follette established a precedent for a movement for the people with his success in California in 1924.[5] On December 15 Sinclair gave multiple lectures in Berkeley on his platform, with him stating that it will eliminate poverty in California in 18 months, and critics were given time to offer rebuttals.[14] The Oakland Tribune attacked Sinclair's socialist policies as similar to fascism and communism over his policies' interference in buisness.[15] The term "Sinclarism" was created by one of his minor opponents, Avery C. Moore, who used it to describe his policy that stood in between the Democratic and Socialist platforms and offered to meet him in a series of debates.[16][17]

Campaign Developments 1934[edit]


Sinclair accepted Moore's offer of debate stating that "We have been looking for some conservative who was willing to debate, and lo and behold, Providence has sent him to us!" and Moore later stated that the debate would most likely be held in Southern California.[18] However, Sinclair regretted accepting the offer as negations with Moore continued his backers wanted Moore to pay for the debate expenses as Sinclair would draw in most of the crowd in the Los Angeles area, but his backers were still sure of success as they saw his campaign gaining ground in the Republican stronghold of California and were confident that he could take the Democratic nomination due multiple candidates with similar views opposed to him would split their voting groups.[19][20][21] Sinclair joined John Beardsley, Chester L. Williams, Helen Marston and Beverly Oaten in signing a letter over the kidnapping and beating of attorney L. Wirin and how the labor rights of under the NRA are suppressed.[22] The debate between Sinclair and Moore would be held in Long Beach on February 10 at the same time as the Socialist State Convention, which was in turmoil over many Socialists leaving the party to join Sinclair in the Democratic party, with comedian Will Rogers to moderate.[23]


A straw poll held at a meeting in Pittsburg, California of Sixth Congressional District Democrats showed George Creel in first with 37%, Sheridan Downey second with 22%, Justus Wardell with 17%, John B. Elliott with 15%, Milton K. Young with 14%, Upton Sinclair in sixth with 12%, Maurice E. Harrison with 9%, Z. T. Malaby with 4% and Avery Moore in last with 3%.[24] In early February Lieutenant Governor Frank Merriam announced his campaign for governor as a Republican, making a pledge to end poverty in California with policies vastly different from Sinclair's and Sheridan Downey formally announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination.[25] Shortly after the announcement of his opponents' campaigns Sinclair received a letter of congratulations from Albert Einstein in which he praised Sinclair's "I, Governor of California" and his policies.[26][27] For most of his campaign Sinclair was touring in Northern California and building up 300 Sinclair-For-Governor clubs with a membership total of 15,000 and his debate appearance in San Bernardinio was one of his first appearances in Southern California.[28] However, despite his growing support the Democratic party establishment did not favor him and in a straw poll of twenty Sacramento state officials only one voted for him.[29] Sinclair's debate appearance sparked controversy over his answer to "In what respect does your idea differ from the plan now being tried out in Russia?" in which he answered with "In none whatever." and following his debate with Moore sent an open letter to Milton Young, the former 1930 nominee and currently running for the nomination, offering to debate him which was rejected as Young did not wish to "lend dignity to [his] newly acquired party affiliation and to [his] present candidacy by meeting [him] in public debate."[30][31] At another debate with Moore Sinclair attacked both the New Deal and the NRA due to the lack of effective enforcement of both policies as Moore offered praise for Roosevelt and his policies.[32] Near the end of February imprisoned political activist Thomas Mooney announced that he might launch a write-in campaign for governor in protest of his imprisonment if Sinclair lost and Sinclair stated afterwards that his first action as governor would be to pardon Mooney.[33]


By mid-March leaders of the California Democratic Party were worried about the possibility of a Sinclair victory to due to the growing strength of his Sinclair-For-Governor clubs and his growing organizations.[34] As Sinclair's strength in Southern California was growing he sent an invitation to Sheridan Downey, another longtime Socialist who popular in Northern California, to debate which was accepted.[35][36]


Fear over the possibility of the non-Socialist voting group being split between multiple candidates allowing Sinclair to win caused talk over the possibility of using electoral fusion to prevent him from gaining the nomination and instead giving the Democratic nomination to a Republican; a Republican would win the Democratic nomination in 1946 and won the election with over 90% of the vote.[37]


During late April talks between Sinclair and Downey developed and it was announced that the two would hold a press conference and many speculated that they would be combining their campaigns even though Downey stated that "I do not approve of Sinclair's 'epic' plan,".[38][39] Sinclair implied through his allies that he would attend a meeting hosted by the Independent Democrats of California, a prominent organization with over twenty thousand members, refused Sinclair's offer to send a representative in his place, but there was speculation that Sheridan Downey would become his running mate and take the endorsement in his place.[40] Shortly after George Creel announced his campaign for governor Sinclair challenged him to a debate after Creel attacked his epic plan on radio.[41] Two major political developments happen in favor of Sinclair when both incumbent Governor James Rolph ended his campaign for the Republican nomination and Downey dropped out and endorsed Sinclair, but refused to state whether he would be Sinclair's running mate; a few days later Downey would announce that he would be running for the lieutenant governor nomination.[42][43] In late May Sinclair made another public statement in favor of pardoning Thomas Mooney and sent a letter to President Roosevelt requesting that he ask Governor Rolph to pardon him.[44] At the end of May Sinclair and Z. T. Malaby attended a meeting of more than 1,000 black members of the Economic, Commercial and Political league of California at the National Orange Show where he promised equality and economic opportunities for California blacks.[45]


On June 2, 1934 Governor James Rolph died giving his Lieutenant Governor Frank Merriam the position of governor and more momentum in the Republican primary. The growing popularity of Sinclair led to both former Governor Friend Richardson and Patrick Cooney choosing not to run for the gubernatorial nominations of their parties and led to Richardson endorsing Frank Merriam to unite the party against the Socialist menace and Patrick Cooney chose to run for Attorney General while supporting Sinclair's policies.[46][47] After months of touring the San Francisco Bay Area Sinclair's book, "I, Governor of California", had received over 60,000 requests and hsi popularity increased statewide from his tours in the south and Downey's popularity in the north.[48] Despite having campaigned for months Sinclair formally declared his campaign for governor in June in Los Angeles.[49] Due to Sinclair's popularity across the state numerous candidates for legislative offices were pledging themselves to him and his epic program.[50] A poll of passengers on a Los Angeles - San Francisco train showed Sinclair in the lead with 20%, Creel in second with 9%, Young with 8%, and Justus Wardell in last with 1%.[51] At the national stage Sinclair received major endorsements as Stuart Chase, Theodore Dreiser, and Clarence Darrow announced the formation of a national Sinclair-for-governor committee.[52]


As the August primary approached attacks on Sinclair increased with many referring to him as a Communist enough for his state organizer, Charles L. Heiser, to come out with a rebuttal stating that "Communism is a dictatorship-political, industrial and economic-placed upon the whole of society by a minority group." and that "Sinclair's proposal of land colonies simply means to use our political democracy to apply industrial democracy to agriculture and industry."[53] Further accusations of communism occurred when a heckler demanded to know "Why aren't you a Communist?" with Sinclair responding "Because I am an American,".[54] Realizing that Sinclair's opponents would only divide their base between themselves and allow him to take the nomination several of his opponents held a meeting called by Z. T. Malaby and attended by other minor candidates to combine their support to oppose Sinclair, but Milton Young, George Creel and Justus Wardell declined the invitation.[55][56] Sinclair was further attacked by Creel and several newspapers for his refusal to support Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 with The Sacramento Bee stating that "Certainly no honest loyal Democrat in California who believes in Franklin D. Roosevelt and his principles of government can vote for one whose every conviction and every publicly-expressed belief is the antihesis of the convictions and beliefs of the Democratic President of the United States."[57] Orginailly George Creel was considered one of Sinclair's minor opponents, but a poll by The Sacramento Union in mid-July showed Creel with twice the support of Sinclair with nearly 600 votes to Sinclair's 292.[58] Sinclair and Downey later received the endorsement of multiple railroad brotherhoods.[59] As Sinclair's support increased many members of the Democratic establishment started disowning him including Postmaster General James Farley who stated "The national committee will take no part in the primaries".[60] Sinclair was attacked by Senator William McAdoo in a radio address in support of George Creel in which he describe Sinclair's EPIC plan as "impracticable" and that Democrats should not allow socialism to conquer the party.[61] By late July Sinclair's stances in the polls improved as a straw poll showed him leading Justus Wardell 2-1 and George Creel 3-1.[62]


Almost a month before the Democratic primary Sinclair held the largest political rally in Santa Cruz with over 300 attending speeches explaining his plan for colonies for middle and lower class Californians in central California.[63] Sinclair's growing support was obvious with conservative leaders stating that out of Los Angeles county with a 200,000 lead over any other gubernatorial aspirant for the Democratic nomination.[64]

General Election Results[edit]

1934 gubernatorial election, California
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Frank F. Merriam (incumbent) 1,138,629 48.87
Democratic Upton Sinclair 879,537 37.75
Progressive Raymond L. Haight 302,519 12.99
Communist Samuel Adams Darcy 5,826 0.25
Socialist Milen Dempster 2,947 0.13
Total votes 2,329,458 100.0
Republican hold Swing


List of political endorsements
  • State central committee of Greek Democratic Clubs of California[65]


  1. ^ "Democratic Party State (And District) Offices Governor". Archived from the original on 2019-04-14. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  2. ^ "Yucaipans Hear Sinclair Booster Deny Communism". Archived from the original on 2019-04-14. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  3. ^ "Free Mooney, Establish Worker Colonies In Plans of Upton Sinclair".
  4. ^ "Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 88, Number 116, 14 November 1933".
  5. ^ a b "Upton Sinclair A Democratic Choice For Governor".
  6. ^ "Santa Ana Register Newspaper Archives". Archived from the original on 2019-03-22. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  8. ^ "Upton Sinclair Turns Democrat".
  9. ^ "Sinclair Is Ousted By Socialists".
  10. ^ "San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 6, Number 175, 26 September 1933".
  11. ^ "Pacifist Sues Fox and Sinclair".
  12. ^ "Upton Sinclair to Dine at White House".
  13. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 119, Number 122, 30 October 1933".
  14. ^ "Upton Sinclair to Lecture on Dec. 15".
  15. ^ "Chester Rowell's Comment".
  16. ^ "Moore Will Center Fight On Sinclair".
  17. ^ "For Other Offices".
  18. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 2, 2 January 1934".
  19. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 12, 12 January 1934".
  20. ^ "Sinclair's Backers See Much Progress".
  21. ^ "Many Candidates".
  22. ^ "Ask Investigation Of Strike Trouble".
  23. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 30, 30 January 1934".
  24. ^ "Oakland Tribune Straw Polls".
  25. ^ "Merriam Has Hope Tackle Need Leader".
  26. ^ "Einstein Praises Sinclair's Book".
  27. ^ "We'll Solve Our Own Problems".
  28. ^ "Sinclair, Gubernatorial Aspirant, Talks Tonight".
  29. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 39, 8 February 1934".
  30. ^ "San Bernardino Sun, Volume 40, 9 February 1934".
  31. ^ "Young Turns Down Debate Invitation".
  32. ^ "Sinclair And Moore Tilt Packs House".
  33. ^ "Mooney Plans to Run for Governor".
  34. ^ "Bourbons Worried".
  35. ^ "Sinclair's Challenge To Debate Accepted".
  36. ^ "Calexico Chronicle, Volume XXX, Number 195, 27 March 1934".
  37. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 116, 26 April 1934".
  38. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 121, 1 May 1934".
  39. ^ "Sinclair, Downey To Confer Friday".
  40. ^ "Independents Of Democrat Party Gather".
  41. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 135, 15 May 1934".
  42. ^ "Downey Quits Governor Race".
  43. ^ "Downey Will Run For State Office".
  44. ^ "Mooney Freedom Made Issue in Political Drive".
  45. ^ "Hear Sinclair, Malaby Speak".
  46. ^ "Richardson Not To Seek Nomination".
  47. ^ "Former Calexico Lawyer Running For State Office".
  48. ^ "Sinclair Completing Speaking Engagement".
  49. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 165, 14 June 1934".
  50. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 120, Number 170, 19 June 1934".
  51. ^ "Calexico Chronicle, Volume XXX, Number 272, 25 June 1934".
  52. ^ "Upton Sinclair Get National Support".
  53. ^ "Yucaipans Hear Sinclair Booster Deny Communism". Archived from the original on 2019-04-14. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  54. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 121, Number 10, 10 July 1934".
  55. ^ "Just Between You And Me".
  56. ^ "Five Bourdon Candidates In Unity Parley".
  57. ^ "Democrats to Try To Stop Sinclair".
  58. ^ "Creel Straw Vote Confounds Old Stand-Pat Stupes".
  59. ^ "Sinclair And Downey Rail Unions Choice".
  60. ^ "Democrats Disown Upton Sinclair".
  61. ^ "Senator Raps Upton Sinclair".
  62. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 121, Number 29, 29 July 1934".
  63. ^ "Sinclair Aide Outlines Land Colonies Plan".
  64. ^ "Sausalito News, Volume XLVIII, Number 31, 3 August 1934".
  65. ^ "Oakland Tribune, Volume 121, Number 26, 26 July 1934".
  66. ^ "Upton Sinclair Meeting Attracts Many Listeners".