Nathan Perlman, one of two New York City Republicans to win reelection in 1922.
The year 1920 stands as a bit of a last in watermarks for Republicans. For one thing, it was the last time the GOP ever got a supermajority in Congress. For another, it was the last time they held a majority of New York City’s congressional seats. 1920 was quite bad for Democrats on account of President Wilson’s unpopularity among ethnic urban voters who would normally otherwise vote Democrat. Wilson in particular had irked Irish Americans and what happened that year was what happened when Tammany Hall sat on its hands. As a result, Republicans won 14 of the 22 districts, with Democrats only having 7 (Socialist Meyer London held the eighth seat). This crowd of Republicans was a rather unusual set as many were more moderate and a good number were Jewish. All of them were opposed to Prohibition, and despite their opposition, the issue weighed heavily on them in 1922. They were:
John Kissel, 3rd District – The moderately conservative John Kissel succeeded Republican John MacCrate in this normally Democratic district in Brooklyn, being elected by over three points. Although Republican Charles B. Law represented the district from 1905 to 1911, this district overall leaned Democrat and after Kissel’s landslide loss by about 40 points in 1922, the area stuck with Democrats.
Ardolph Kline, 5th District – Interestingly regarding Kline, he had for three months served as New York City’s acting mayor in 1913 after the mayor’s sudden death. Kline won in 1920 by 20 points and was fiscally conservative; he voted against overriding President Harding’s veto of the veterans’ bonus legislation in 1922 as well as the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act. He did, however, vote for amendments lowering tariffs. Kline, in quite a contrast to his 1920 performance, lost reelection by over 12 points in 1922. The Brooklyn-based district would again elect a Republican in Francis E. Dorn in 1952.
Warren I. Lee, 6th District – The 6th district, which at this time was in Borough Park, Brooklyn, was actually something of a Republican stronghold. Its previous representatives had been Frederick W. Rowe and William M. Calder, both conservative guys. In 1920, it seemed like the district would stay that way as Lee won the election by over 29 points. Lee was a moderate conservative while in Congress, but in 1922 he lost reelection to Democrat Charles Stengle by about five points. The 1924 election saw the election of Democrat Andrew Somers by two points over Lee. Somers would win reelection in 1926 by about 20 points and he held on to the district until his death in 1949. This district hasn’t elected a Republican since.
Michael J. Hogan, 7th District – The 7th district, located again in Brooklyn, had Michael J. Hogan defeated Democratic incumbent James P. Maher in 1920 by 9 points. Maher had held the seat for ten years after defeating Republican Otto G. Foelker in the 1910 midterms. Although Hogan was a moderate Republican, this wouldn’t save him from an electoral drubbing in 1922, losing by 17 points to Democrat John F. Quayle. He was subsequently appointed secretary to the Collector of the Port of New York, and was the most ethically challenged of all the men listed. He was implicated in two scandals: the first was extorting bribes in exchange for the granting of plumbers’ licenses and the second was accepting bribes to falsify the records of three illegal immigrants so they could get citizenship, and for the latter he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison (Political Graveyard). The district would remain in Democratic hands.
Charles G. Bond, 8th District – This traditionally Democratic Brooklyn district in 1920 opted to toss out Democratic incumbent William Cleary to elect Bond, a nephew of Ohio Republican bigwig Charles H. Grosvenor, by over 13 points. Bond was a conservative, and ultimately this win was a fluke as he lost reelection by 24 points to Cleary. The district, when combined with territory from the old 5th, would elect another Republican in Francis E. Dorn in 1952, but after his loss of reelection in 1960, it would remain Democratic.
Andrew Petersen, 9th District – In this yet again Brooklyn district Petersen defeated incumbent David J. O’Connell by 14 points. Petersen was a conservative by orientation, and this district looked like maybe it wasn’t so Democratic given that it had been represented by Republican Oscar Swift from 1915 to 1919, but Petersen got an electoral drubbing in 1922, losing by over 23 points to O’Connell. The area has remained Democratic since.
Lester D. Volk, 10th District – New York’s 10th district in Brooklyn had a long history as a Democratic district, but the Republicans scored a victory with Reuben Haskell in 1914 and were able to hold the district, with Volk being elected in a special election in 1920 and again for a full term with 50% of the vote, coming up ahead of the Democrat by over 22 points. However, it must be considered that the Socialist candidate pulled in over 22% of the vote that year. Volk was a moderate Republican who had backed Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, and his willingness to break with party showed most on his votes on tariffs. He also was outspokenly opposed to Prohibition and voted against the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act despite being reported as having testified in favor of it. Volk appeared to be concerned about whether doctors would be administering the act. In 1922, Volk was defeated by Democrat Emanuel Celler, who ran on a platform of opposition to Prohibition and support for the League of Nations. Volk would in 1928 back Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt for governor and Al Smith for President (Stone, 111). Celler would hold the district for fifty years, and this area would later elect Chuck Schumer to Congress. However, this area briefly had a Republican representative in Bob Turner after the resignation of scandal-plagued Anthony Weiner.
Nathan D. Perlman, 14th District – New York’s 14th district (Harlem) had a long history of Democratic representation before Republican Fiorello La Guardia pulled off a remarkable victory in 1916 and benefited from Democratic support in 1918 to stop an anti-war socialist. After La Guardia’s resignation in 1919, Perlman succeeded him in a special election. In 1920, Perlman won reelection by over 35 points; his only opposition was a member of the Socialist Party. He was a moderate Republican and particularly broke with his party on tariffs. Perlman was one of the few Republicans to survive the 1922 midterms in New York City, and the reason was that the Socialist Party had a strong nominee who siphoned votes from the Democratic candidate. He benefited from the three-way race. Perlman would benefit from President Coolidge’s coattails in 1924, barely winning over challenger William I. Sirovich, but in 1926 Sirovich prevailed by almost five points, and the district has remained in Democratic hands since. Perlman interestingly enough after his time in Congress was a judge and grew concerned with the growth of the German American Bund. He had come to the realization that “What those Nazis need is a good ass-whipping”, and got in contact with Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky on the matter (Farley). Lansky was happy to send his men free of charge to disrupt Bund gatherings and beat up Bundists.
Thomas J. Ryan, 15th District – Ryan defeated incumbent Peter J. Dooling by over 10 points. Ryan was a moderate Republican and quite young for Congress, being elected at 32 years old. Despite his relative moderation, he would vote against the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act and be defeated for reelection by 24 points in 1922. Ryan would in 1926 affiliate himself with the Democratic Party. The district would be incorporated into Sol Bloom’s territory in the 1944 election.
Ogden Mills, 17th District – Located in the “silk stocking” district of New York City, this district was one of the strongest performers for the GOP. Mills, who had defeated incumbent Herbert Pell by over 28 points in 1920, was a more orthodox Republican, particularly on matters of taxes and tariffs, and would later serve as the Secretary of the Treasury under Herbert Hoover. From 1921 to 1969 this district would only be held by two Democrats: William Cohen, who served from 1927 to 1929, and Theodore Peyser, who served from 1933 to his death in 1937. The people who came to serve in this district included advertising executive Bruce Barton and New York City Mayor John Lindsay. Frederic R. Coudert, who represented the district from 1947 to 1959, was perhaps the last figure who could be called conservative to represent this district in Congress.
Walter Chandler, 19th District – Walter Chandler was one of the more conservative Republicans in the New York City delegation, which was curious as he had originally been elected to Congress in 1912 as a Progressive. In 1916, he would be elected to Congress as a Republican, but would lose reelection in the Republican wave year of 1918, an omen for the future of the GOP in the district. Although Chandler won his seat back in 1920 by over 26 points, he lost reelection in 1922 to Democrat Samuel Marx by 6 points. However, Marx died, and Chandler lost the special election by 145 votes to Democrat Sol Bloom. In 1924, he would lose an attempt at a comeback by 12 points. Bloom would hold on to the seat until his death in 1949, and the area would remain in Democratic hands.
Isaac Siegel – 20th District – Elected narrowly in the 1914 midterms, Siegel would face three times for reeelection Morris Hillquit, a major figure in the Socialist Party. Hillquit comes close to defeating Siegel in 1916, but in 1918 the Socialists’ anti-war position is deeply unpopular and Siegel wins by 22 points. He wins again by over 14 points in 1920, with only Hillquit as his opposition. Isaac Siegel is a moderate conservative while in office, but by 1922 New York City Republicans are in deep trouble and he opts not to run again. He is, however, succeeded by maverick Republican Fiorello La Guardia. In 1924, he leaves the Republican Party as he cannot support Coolidge, instead backing Progressive Robert La Follette. Siegel wins the Republican Party nomination while La Guardia wins the Socialist and Progressive Party nominations. Siegel fails to defeat La Guardia and in 1926 the latter again runs as a Republican. Even La Guardia as a liberal Republican loses reelection in the tough year of 1932. The district would be held one more time by a Republican, from 1935 to 1937 when Vito Marcantonio identifies as one. He would later represent the district as a member of the pro-communist American Labor Party. Siegel would later be appointed to the domestic court by Mayor La Guardia, and would serve as a judge until his accidental death from falling out of his ninth story apartment window in 1947 (Stone, 100).
Martin C. Ansorge, 21st District – Elected in 1920 after three unsuccessful runs at Congress, Ansorge was a moderate conservative and an active freshman, and he introduced two anti-lynching bills and legislation to end Prohibition. Ansorge lost reelection by only 345 votes in 1922. He would take an interesting path after his time in Congress, joining Henry Ford’s legal team to negotiate a settlement after he was sued by Aaron Sapiro for libel (Stone, 112). Ansorge would, decades after his term in Congress, continue to believe that Warren G. Harding was one of America’s best presidents. He stated, “I still believe what I then said – that [Harding] was one of our best Presidents” (Stone, 112). Although this district was quite Democratic, it was one of those districts that did elect another Republican…Jacob Javits in 1946. After Javits left the House, it was back to Democrats for keeps.
Albert B. Rossdale, 23rd District – Rossdale defeated incumbent Richard F. McKiniry by 2 points in this normally staunchly Democratic district. He was a moderate who focused most while in office on World War I veterans, and he voted to override President Harding’s veto of the bonus bill in 1922. He proposed a dollar for every day a veteran served over 90 days, but it was rejected in committee (Stone, 93). This was definitely the oddest district out for the Republicans to win, and this would be reaffirmed by the depth of Rossdale’s defeat in 1922; he lost by 28 points. Right after leaving Congress in March 1923, he and fellow former New York City Congressman Andrew Petersen were assigned by Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby to investigate the lives of sailors stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. What followed was a farce, in which after they dressed as sailors and dined with the crew, they got on shore leave for a cabaret show. They were both arrested in five minutes for being ashore after 11 o’clock, with the headline in the New York Times reading, “Congressmen Seized, Dressed as Sailors” (Stone, 94).
Farley, T. (2022, May 7). Jewish gangsters once took on Nazis in the streets of NYC. The New York Post.
Politicians in Trouble or Disgrace: Bribery. The Political Graveyard.
Stone, K.F. (2011). The Jews of Capitol Hill: a compendium of Jewish Congressional members. Scarecrow Press.