Washington Republicans join nation in sweep of elections on November 5, 1946.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 10/30/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5588

On November 5, 1946, Washington Republicans win five of six Congressional seats and a seat in the U.S. Senate, taking control of Congress, the state legislature, and King County government. Republican Harry P. Cain bests for re-election incumbent U.S. Senator Hugh B. Mitchell, Democrat. This is a dramatic shift from the election of 1936 when Democrats dominated elections, and signals the end of the New Deal era.

Republican Tacoma Mayor Harry P. Cain declared in his campaign, "My kind of people declared war on radicalism and un-Americanism everywhere. We shall continue to wage eternal war against conditions which are evil, corrupt, unreasonable and extravagant."

The Republican victory was so decisive that U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995) (D. Arkansas) demanded that President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) appoint a Republican as Secretary of State and then resign to allow Republicans to run the government (Truman succeeded to the presidency upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945). Republican U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft (1889-1953) (R., Ohio) declared, "For the first time in 14 years, The United States no longer is in a state of emergency ... the American people definitely are opposed in giving an arbitrary central government the power and money to regulate their daily lives."

Surviving the Republican juggernaut was Everett Democratic Congressman Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (who was later elected U.S. Senator six times) and Democratic State Senator Albert D. Rosellini (1910-2011) of Seattle (who later served as governor for two terms). Many Democratic candidates such as First District Congressman Hugh D. Delacy had followed and supported the liberal reforms of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1881-1945), which had engendered a dramatic growth of government.

Western Union messenger Charles J. McDonald was the Republican chosen by voters for the state senate district that includes Seattle's Central Business District. His background was "sort of cluttered up with a lot of different jobs, anything to make an honest living." He promised to abolish the office of lieutenant governor and "useless units of government" (The Seattle Daily Times) including either city police or county sheriffs.

Ballot measures supported by Democratic Governor Mon C. Wallgren failed, including a referendum that would reorganize the State Game Department, an initiative to expand the Public Utilities Commission, and a referendum to establish a Timber Resources Board.

King County voters approved a $3,000,000 bond issue to expand the newly constructed Seattle-Tacoma Airport at Bow Lake.

Statewide, the voter turnout was 64 percent and in King County it was almost 63 percent. The count in selected races was as follows:

U.S. Senator

  • Harry P. Cain (R) - 358,847
  • Hugh B. Mitchell (D) - 298,683

Initiative 166, Public Power
Yes - 220,239  No - 367,836

Referendum 26, Fish and Game Commission Reorganization:
Yes - 69,490  No - 447,819

Referendum 27, Forestry Bill
  Yes - 107,731  No - 422,026

House Joint Resolution 9, Federal Taxation
Yes - 253,819  No - 198,786


Ross Cunningham, "Sparkman Concedes Defeat; G.O.P. Rule of Legislature Seen," The Seattle Daily Times, November 6, 1946, p. 1; Donald Brazier, "Messenger, Elected Senator, Would Cut Out Useless Posts," Ibid., 1; "G.O.P. Holds Upper-House Edge of One," Ibid., 1; "Game, Timber Issues Defeated, Ibid., 3; "Cain Pledges Best to Task," Ibid., 3; Washington Secretary of State, Abstract of Votes polled in the State of Washington at the General Election, November 5, 1946, (Olympia: Secretary of State, 1946).

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