Leelanau has leaned Republican for all but two elections
What do 2008 and 1964 have in common besides the elections of Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama?
Leelanau leaned left in those two years, and that’s been a rare road taken by county voters. In fact, it appears that those were the only elections in which a majority of county voters has supported a Democratic candidate.
Not even Franklin Delano Roosevelt could pull off the feat in 1936, when he set a record by carrying 48 of 50 states in the union — including Michigan, by a wide margin. It was the largest margin in the Electtoral College since 1820.
At the time, Republicans dominated county and township government, and Leelanau Enterprise publisher Dayton Shelby’s coverage in the edition prior to the election included a list of endorsed candidates on the front page. Presidential candidate Alfred M. Landon was supported; Roosevelt’s name did not appear.
The list, which went all way down to support for Herbert H. Brehmer as county surveyor, carried a common theme.
“The Enterprise takes pride in endorsing the following ticket, for we believe the candidates represent the principles of honesty and sincerity to the duties of the office for which each was nominated, and that by making such a choice, we may assure ourselves good government, in local as well as state offices...”
Following the list, the newspaper concluded, “If your choice agrees with ours, all that is necessary to make your selection is to vote straight Republican next Tuesday, Nov. 3rd.”
It was a time of transition for America, as Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and other federal government programs created to help people through the Depression were attacked politically and judiciously. A front page story provided Republican candidate Landon’s “10 flaws” in the recent Social Security Act, including the “numbering” of workmen, a loss of privacy by workers and the cost — some 40 percent more than life insurance annuities carrying the same benefits. At the time employees and employers each contributed 2 percent of gross wages into the system; the rates are now 7.65 percent each from employees and employers including a payroll tax for Medicare.
Dramatic change was also being considered for the role of state and local governments. Voters were considering three changes to the state Constitution that would allow counties to incorporate with the same powers as cities, exempt food and meals from the state sales tax, and limit property tax levies to the amounts needed for local governments to meet their obligations. The Enterprise opposed all three.
“It looks to us that most of these amendments were backed up by selfish interests wishing to escape their parts in payments of any state taxes,” an editorial read.
The paper also took aim at a claim by the Democratic party that Republicans, if elected, would halt “welfare and relief.” It quoted U.S. Senate candidate Wilber M. Brucker: “Let our answer to the Democrats be millions for the relief of genuine suffering and misery, but not one cent for boondoggling, waste, graft and corruption.”
Selby wrote of America’s future: “May our nation never be torn with class or race hatred as is being experienced in other countries. Regardless of who is elected, may we continue to dwell in peace.”
It’s impossible to determine the impact of the Enterprise’s endorsements, but remember that few other “news” outlets were available. There was no television, and radio was a relative newcomer to northern
Leelanau County did, indeed, vote Republican in 1936, bucking the national trend.
The Nov. 5 edition proclaimed proudly, “Strong Republican Vote In Leelanau.” Although Roosevelt captured 61 percent of the nation’s vote, he came up short in the county. Landon, the Republican governor from Kansas, tallied 1,643 votes compared to Roosevelt’s 1,504.
It sounded as if publisher Selby was sitting with the election board when the Enterprise reported the news.
“The vote counting began, and when the results were given there were probably more people surprised than at any time in history,” he wrote. Even Michigan Republican Governor Fitzgerald won reelection — and carried Leelanau County, 1,874-1,196.
But the candidate who drew the most votes in Leelanau County was the first female prosecuting attorney in the state of Michigan. Lake Leelanau attorney Emelia Schaub, a Republican, tallied 1,985 votes. Her Democratic opponent, a Mr. Drinan, had 1,149 votes.
The three proposed state Constitutional amendments opposed by the Enterprise were defeated. One amendment that drew Enterprise support was approved. It allowed firearms to be brought into a courthouse to be used as evidence in a criminal trial — apparently a change that got traction during the time of Prohibition, which had ended three years earlier.