Municipal Ownership League

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The Municipal Ownership League was an American third party formed in 1904 by controversial newspaper magnate and Congressman William Randolph Hearst for the purpose of contesting elections in New York City.

Hearst, a lifelong Democrat, formed the party chiefly as a means of toppling the Tammany Hall political machine, a faction of the Democratic Party which then dominated city politics, and specifically to defeat Tammany crony George B. McClellan, Jr., who was then running for a second term as Mayor of New York City.

In addition to its anti-Tammany stance, the League was chiefly concerned with municipal ownership of public utilities, which were then in the hands of massive business combines called "trusts."

Although Hearst had no wish to run on the League's ticket himself, feeling that a resounding loss would cripple his ambition to one day be elected President of the United States, he announced his candidacy for Mayor after failing to recruit attorney Charles Evans Hughes or Judge Samuel Seabury for the job.

During the course of the election, Hearst, despite the opposition of Tammany, both major parties, the local Socialists, and every major newspaper other than his own, managed to create an coalition of trade unionists, immigrants, Progressive reformers, and disaffected Democrats and Republicans. On Election Day, November 7, 1905, Hearst polled 224,929 votes, or 37.16%. However, Mayor McClellan polled 228,397 votes (37.74%), and was thus narrowly re-elected. After the election, well-substantiated accusations of electoral fraud surfaced against McClellan and Tammany, but the results were not overturned.

In addition to Hearst, the League fielded candidates for city council, borough president, and the New York Legislature. Although most of the candidates lost their races, some by very narrow margins almost certainly influenced by the electoral fraud, the League did elect five state assemblymen, several aldermen, and a borough president in Brooklyn.

After the elections, however, Hearst rejoined the Democratic Party in order to run for Governor of New York in 1906. Lacking its leader (and chief source of funding), the League soon dissolved, and fielded no candidates in any future election.

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