United States Senate election in South Carolina, 1909

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The 1909 South Carolina United States Senate election of January 26, 1909[1] was effectively settled on August 25, 1908 and September 8 by a Democratic Party primary election. Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution, U.S. Senators were elected by the state legislature and not through the direct election by the people of the state.

However, the Democratic Party of South Carolina organized primary elections for the U.S. Senate beginning in 1896 and the General Assembly would confirm the choice of the Democratic voters. Democrat Ellison D. Smith won the Democratic primary and was elected by the General Assembly for a six-year term.

Democratic primary[edit]

Ellison D. Smith, an official in the Cotton Association and often called "Cotton Ed", entered the Democratic primary but found himself in early trouble when he promised that cotton would rise to eighteen cents and it did not occur. However, his rhetorical skills allowed him to take command of the stump and attract voters to his campaign. Former Governor John Gary Evans was making his fourth straight attempt for the Senate seat and received the private support of Senator Ben Tillman. The tide of Tillmanism had receded in the state and the public endorsement by Tillman would doom a candidate's prospects. Smith and Evans emerged as the top two candidates were to face each other in a runoff election on September 8. Evans once again failed to carry the day and Smith scored a resounding victory.

South Carolina U.S. Senate Primary Election, 1908
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Ellison D. Smith 30,012 28.2
Democratic John Gary Evans 27,589 26.0
Democratic R. Goodwin Rhett 22,422 21.1
Democratic George Johnstone 13,656 12.8
Democratic O.B. Martin 6,802 6.4
Democratic William W. Lumpkin 4,361 4.1
Democratic John P. Grace 1,497 1.4

South Carolina U.S. Senate Primary Runoff Election, 1908
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Ellison D. Smith 69,318 63.6 +35.4
Democratic John Gary Evans 39,655 36.4 +10.4

General election[edit]

In the genera election, Smith was elected unanimously by the South Carolina Legislature on January 26, 1909.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tribune Almanac, p. 272.