In the 1904 election coverage, editors of the Santa Rosa Republican and Press Democrat booed the other side's presidential candidate -- but the long knives came out over the contest for the House of Representatives. This post and the following one explain some of the backstory, and why the fight became so vicious.

The Democratic party candidate was 32 year-old Theodore Bell, then completing his first term in the House. Before his term in Congress, Bell had been District Attorney in Napa County. The opposition charged that he'd done little in Washington except claim partial credit for legislation authored by other Congressmen.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Duncan McKinlay was the Republican challenger. Although he maintained a home on Cherry Street in Santa Rosa, the Democrats said he was technically a resident of San Francisco, where he worked and lived most of the time.


Bell's commendable efforts in Congress were limited to good intentions. He accomplished nothing. It was Perkins who secured the building of the collier at Mare Island Navy Yard after Bell had lost the proposition in the House. Bell had no more to do with the apportionment of funds of the Sacramento and Napa Rivers than did the man in the moon. They were apportioned on the recommendation of the engineers, the work being done in the War Department. All that Bell can be credited with in any manner affecting the welfare of this state or district in any way is "good intentions," with which a very hot place is supposed to be paved.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904

It is a noteworthy fact that the only argument Duncan McKinlay's supporters can advance in favor of his election to Congress is the fact that he belongs to the Republican party.

They cannot say that he is a better man for the place than Theodore Bell, for that is not true.

They cannot urge his superior ability, for he does not possess it.

They cannot claim that either personally, professionally, mentally, or morally Duncan McKinlay is better entitled to the support of the people than Theodore Bell, for they know better.

All they can say is that McKinlay belongs to the Republican party.

He certainly does.

- Press Democrat, October 7, 1904

MORE on the election of 1904
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