Keith Norman speaks on presidential politics at Front Porch Chat – The Jamestown Sun

Keith Norman spoke on “Presidential Politics” at the last Front Porch Chat of the 2023 season at the Stutsman County Memorial Museum.

Norman said that even though Stutsman County residents could vote for senators and representatives in federal government during the Dakota Territory period, they could not vote for president, a distinction still true today for U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and others. During this early period, each party would print a “ticket” of their candidates, often in different colors. The voters would simply drop the ticket of their choice in the ballot box. This practice was discontinued by 1891 when the modern “Australian Ballot” was adopted by the state Legislature.

The first presidential election for North Dakota and Stutsman County voters was in 1892 between Grover Cleveland, incumbent Benjamin Harrison and a Populist candidate, James Weaver. Cleveland was the winner and was the first and only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

In general, North Dakota and Stutsman County voted for the winner in 10 of the first 12 elections in which they participated, Norman said. The Republican Party dominated presidential elections from statehood until the 1924 election. During the 1920s and into the 1930s, there were large numbers of bank closures and farm failures that started before the stock market crash of 1929 considered the cause of The Great Depression, he said. During this time of personal hardship, people looked to Populist candidates. During the 1924 election, Republican Calvin Coolidge was challenged by John Davis, Democrat, and Robert LaFollette, Progressive (populist) candidate. LaFollette got 45% of North Dakota votes, second to Coolidge (47%). This populist trend would continue in North Dakota politics during the period of the Non-Partisan League (NPL) dominance of state offices.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat known as FDR, won the election in 1932, defeating Herbert Hoover, whom many blamed for the Depression. This was the first time a Democrat had won in North Dakota. The leader of the NPL, William Lemke, was the first North Dakotan to run for president under the Union Party in the 1936 election, winning 13% of the North Dakota vote against FDR, who was elected president four times.

The museum’s board of directors and staff expressed their appreciation to Gate City Bank for its continuing support and The Jamestown Sun for publishing information on the Front Porch Chat programs.

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