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A Progressive Sweep!

In December 1911, Arizonans voted in an election that paved the way for statehood

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Rebuffed in their attempt to obtain statehood by a presidential veto in August 1911, Arizonans quickly sought a second chance.

Because it included a judicial-recall provision, President William Howard Taft had rejected Arizona's draft Constitution. (See "Judging Democracy," Aug. 4.) Within days, Congress sent him new legislation requiring the removal of the provision allowing the recall of judges.

Once that was done, Arizona could become a state.

"I sincerely hope," one Tucsonan said of the contentious recall issue, "the required majority of our good people of our good territory may be as ready as I would be to lay aside any personal feeling in this matter and vote us into this great commonwealth. It is now up to us."

The stakes were high, according to local leaders. The Tucson Citizen declared that statehood "(may not mean) greener grass nor heavier rainfall, but more people and more money to make the best use of the present resources which nature has given Arizona."

Tucson Mayor Ira E. Huffman was more specific. "I am confident," he predicted, "that Arizona's population and taxable valuation will double within the first five years."

Like most politicians, Huffman was overly optimistic. During the entire decade, Arizona's population increased by about two-thirds.

Local businessman J.A. Rogers, on the other hand, speculated of statehood: "We may not have a boom. In fact, I hope we won't have, for booms are not healthy for communities to have."

Complying with the adopted federal legislation, territorial Gov. Richard E. Sloan called for a general election to be held on Dec. 12, 1911. On the ballot would be a simple "for" or "against" question of removing the judicial recall from the Constitution. Also to be decided in December were the initial Arizona officeholders for seats including U.S. senator, state governor and many others. Of course, for these positions to be filled, the constitutional amendment would need to pass.

To prepare for the December vote, Sloan called for a primary election to be held on Oct. 24. Given the circumstances, numerous candidates threw their hats into the political ring.

One thing these candidates agreed upon was that the recall amendment should be adopted. They also generally concurred that once Arizona became a state, the removal of judges should be reinserted into the Constitution.

The Citizen proclaimed that every candidate for the state Legislature should be asked to pledge to resubmit the recall issue. The Arizona Republican Party platform agreed, stating it supported "immediate re-submission of the recall of judges to a vote of the people."

In early November 1911, several Republican candidates for office spoke at Tucson's downtown opera house. Among them was Ralph Cameron, the man who, as Arizona's territorial representative in Congress, was primarily responsible for shepherding the statehood measure to adoption. He was also a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Cameron told those attending that some people thought he should have told Taft "to go to Hades, or some other place" over the recall issue. But, Cameron continued, "I took what I could get."

In his final Thanksgiving message to the people of the Arizona Territory, Gov. Sloan declared the holiday "should be observed with thanks in recognition of the manifold blessings granted us during the year, and especially for the gift of statehood which awaits our acceptance."

While many people assumed the recall amendment would pass, the Arizona Daily Star aggressively championed the cause. In one article, the newspaper wrote that a vote against the amendment "would operate against statehood and continue the territory under carpet-bag rule with the handles of the bag in Washington."

In another pre-election piece, the Star emphasized: "If you don't want statehood; if you want to be bound, hand and foot; if you want to be a puppet, with the owner of the Punch and Judy show in Washington pulling the string that makes dependent mankind dance, vote against the amendment. ... But if you want to be one of God's creatures, with all the rights of manhood and independence; if you want to be a free American citizen, vote for the constitutional amendment."

Going even further, before the December election, the Star prominently displayed the language of the recall amendment and showed the "for" box boldly checked.

All the political pressure paid off, and the amendment passed easily. Although the Republicans had campaigned as "progressives," the more-liberal Democrats made a clean sweep of the major federal and state offices.

Characterizing the results as "disappointing" but "not altogether discouraging," Republican territorial Gov. Sloan believed Arizona eventually would change its political course. "Immigration for the past few years," he wrote Taft on Dec. 26, 1911, "has been largely from Republican states, and it is fair to assume, therefore, that a majority of these newcomers are Republicans."

Ten days later, Sloan endorsed an ambitious idea originally put forth by the Citizen. He wrote every governor in the nation, asking them to proclaim Arizona's statehood admission day a holiday in their own states.

Unfortunately, Sloan admitted, when exactly Arizona would become a state was unknown. But in early January of 1912, that seemed like just a minor detail that needed to be worked out.

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