Ohio History Journal

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Congressional Campaigns of

James M Cox, 1908 and 1910





On September 16, 1908, the Democrats of the Third Congressional District of Ohio

held their biennial convention at Middletown and by acclamation nominated James

M. Cox of Dayton as their candidate for the House of Representatives. Thus began

the public career of the only Ohioan ever nominated for the presidency by the

Democratic party. The aggressive campaign waged by Cox for a seat in Congress

inaugurated a twelve year period of sustained political activity, culminating in his

candidacy for President of the United States.

Thirty-eight years of age, Cox was the publisher of the Dayton Daily News and

one of southwestern Ohio's most illustrious citizens.1 The year 1908 was indeed an

opportune time for Cox to launch his political career. The Democrats of the Third

District were optimistic that year largely because the Republican opposition was

split into two irreconcilable factions, one of which was led by Charles W. Bieser,

Montgomery County Republican chairman, and the other by freshman Congressman

John E. Harding of Middletown.

Bieser had been responsible for denying renomination to Harding, and the latter

was to retaliate by running for reelection to Congress in 1908 as an independent.

Replacing Harding as the Republican nominee was one of Bieser's most loyal

supporters, State Representative William G. Frizell of Dayton. The Third District

consisted of Montgomery, Butler, and Preble counties, and was marginal in political

complexion.2 Since the district was almost evenly divided between Republicans and

Democrats, it was imperative for each party to maintain maximum harmony within

its ranks. In 1906, when the Republicans had been united, Harding had easily

defeated his Democratic challenger by a plurality of 1,730 votes: 24,567 (49.4%)

to 22,837 (46.0%). The Socialist and Prohibitionist candidates had received 1,896

and 393 votes respectively.3

Although nominated on September 16, Cox did not launch his congressional


1. For an autobiographical account of Cox's early life see James M. Cox, Journey Through

My Years (New York, 1946), 3-53.

2. During the sixteen years of its existence, the district had been represented by five congress-

men: three Democrats and two Republicans. Each party had won four regular congressional

elections during this period, while the Democrats had won the only special election. Indicative

of the district's marginal character was the fact that four of these elections had been decided

by less than 202 votes.

3. Ohio, Annual Report of the Secretary of State, 1906, p. 153.


Mr. Grant is associate professor of history at Pace College Westchester in Pleasantville, New