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1939 Chicago mayoral election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1939 Chicago mayoral election

← 1935
1943 →
Chicago Mayor discusses Illinois political situation with President. Washington, D.C., Jan. 18. Mayor Edward Kelly of Chicago arriving at the White House for a conference with President LCCN2016872892 (cropped).jpg
Dwight H. Green cph.3b30070 (a).jpg
Nominee Edward J. Kelly Dwight H. Green
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 822,469 638,068
Percentage 56.12% 43.54%

Mayor before election

Edward J. Kelly

Elected Mayor

Edward J. Kelly

In the Chicago mayoral election of 1939 incumbent Edward J. Kelly was reelected by a double-digit margin of victory.

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Democratic primary

Incumbent Democrat William J. Kelly had already served for nearly six years, which meant that he was going to tie the record at the time for the most consecutive years spent as mayor (Carter Harrison Jr. had also spent six consecutive years between 1899 and 1905). By seeking election an additional four-year term, Kelly was running to have the longest uninterrupted mayoralty Chicago had ever seen.[1] An additional four years would also tie him with Carter Harrison Jr. for the longest-serving mayor in Chicago history at the time (Harrison had served ten non-consecutive years as mayor).

Kelly fended off a primary challenge from Thomas J. Courtney. Rebellious and reform-oriented Democrats united behind Thomas J. Courtney as a challenger to Kelly and the political machine.[1] Courtney had initially held hopes of aligning himself with Governor Henry Horner. Horner had been engaging in a political feud with Kelly and Chicago Democratic boss Patrick Nash. However, Horner made peace with Chicago's Democratic machine before the mayoral primary, consequentially robbing Courntney of an opportunity to capitalize off of discord between the Chicago political establishment and the state's governor.[2]

Despite efforts to draft him,[3] Harold L. Ickes did not run for the nomination.


Chicago Democratic mayoral primary (February 28, 1939)[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Edward J. Kelly (incumbent) 604,000 62.78
Democratic Thomas J. Courtney 358,139 37.22
Turnout 962,139

Republican primary

Dwight H. Green defeated former mayor William H. Thompson in the Republican primary.

Thompson had announced his bid in mid-December of 1938.[5]


Chicago Republican mayoral primary (February 28, 1939)[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Dwight H. Green 211,965 77.27
Republican William H. Thompson 62,352 22.73
Turnout 274,317

Independent candidates

Republican[7] Arthur P. Reilly ran as an independent.

General election

After his defeat in the primary, Thomas Courtney reluctantly agreed to endorse Kelly.[1]

Republican nominee Dwight H. Green was a young and talented lawyer, as well as a political reformer. As an assistant district attorney, Green had helped to construct the income tax evasion case which led to mobster Al Capone's imprisonment.[1] Green ran a vigorous campaign which attempted to make the case against Kelly's political campaign for its connections with criminal elements.[1] His campaign also harshly criticized increases in the city tax rate.[1]

Kelly won the election by a decisive margin and with a record-setting vote total.[8]

Both parties attempted to spin the narrative of the election result to their advantage.[8] Democratic Party chairman James Farley declared that "As Illinois goes, so will the nation 1940."[8] However Republicans tried to argue that Green's performance, the best by a Republican Chicago mayoral candidate in a decade, demonstrated that there was promise for Republicans to carry Illinois' 29 electoral votes in 1940.[8]


Mayor of Chicago 1935 election[9] (General Election)
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Edward J. Kelly (incumbent) 822,469 56.12
Republican Dwight H. Green 638,068 43.54
Independent Arthur P. Reilly 4,921 0.34
Turnout 1,465,458


  1. ^ a b c d e f The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition, fourth edition by Paul M. Green, Melvin G. Holli SIU Press, Jan 10, 2013
  2. ^ "Illinois: Windy Primary". Time. 1939-03-13. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
  3. ^ Ickes Asked To Run For Chicago Mayor's Office Lawrence Journal-World - Dec 6, 1938
  4. ^ "RaceID=283330". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  5. ^,4807941
  6. ^ "RaceID=283329". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d,1597390
  9. ^ "RaceID=123289". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
This page was last edited on 5 March 2019, at 03:00
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