DATE OF EVENT: Tuesday, April 2, 1940
DATE PUBLISHED: Wednesday, April 3, 1940, in The Kansas City Times
Editor’s note: In 1924, the Pendergast machine swept into Kansas City politics. Not until 1940 would reformers win a major election. By then, Thomas J. Pendergast, known as the Boss, had been sentenced to 15 months in prison, and a subsequent audit of City Hall accounts revealed that the city was millions of dollars in debt. John B. Gage was elected mayor. He would serve until 1946. He and his allies would replace the machine’s patronage system with a merit system and institute businesslike procedures at City Hall.
With a resounding smash, the voters of Kansas City tumbled the Pendergast machine out of the City hall yesterday.
Riding the crest of a city-wide wave of protest joined in by both political parties, John B. Gage was swept into the office of mayor in a crushing defeat of the machine. The cleanup majority was approximately 19,000, in a total vote of 169,000.
Seven of the eight United Campaign candidates for the city council and the two candidates for municipal judges were swept into office with Gage. In its first defeat in a city election since it took over in 1926, the machine elected only one district councilman.
The most startling event of the election was the reduction of the machine’s majority in the first district. In former years that majority exceeded 30,000. It was 27,000 in 1938. …
The possibility of legal action to prevent the new council from taking office was indicated yesterday when Alfred E. Phillips, third district incumbent, announced his intention to contest the right of (George J.) Miller to his place. There has been discussion among other machine councilmen now in office along the same lines. …
The results from scattered precincts on the South Side show heavy losses by the machine, and corresponding gains by United forces. In most of the precincts where the machine won in 1938, it lost by a virtual reversal of totals yesterday.
In the seventh precinct of the eighth ward the total yesterday was Gage, 227; (Flavel) Robertson, 56. In 1938 the Coalition polled 98 and the machine 108. … That trend is being followed closely in early returns throughout the South Side.
The contest throughout the city was marked by reversals of majorities compared to the city election of 1938. The United Campaign ticket carried one precinct in each of the first and second wards, something that opponents of the machine have not done since the machine took over power.
Unusual, too, was the stay-at-home total, which averaged about seventy votes a precinct. The total vote of 169,000 out of a total registration of 203,000 was the smallest percentage of the eligible vote cast in many years.