January 20, 2021

Letter: It can be a long process

Republican Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks and letter-writer T. Waldmann-Williams (Dec. 22) can decry all they want Democratic candidate Rita Hart’s decision to let Congress determine the winner of Iowa’s 2nd District House seat. But it’s perfectly within Hart’s right to take the matter to the House Administration Committee.

The decision of the only Newton resident ever to serve in Congress to challenge the results of the 1880 election shows just how long the process can take.

John Calhoun Cook (1846-1920), a Newton attorney, successfully contested the election of Marsena E. Cutts (1833-1883) to the 47th Congress. Official results showed Cutts, a Republican, leading Cook, the Democratic-Greenback candidate, 18,017 (50.15 percent) to 17,911 (49.85 percent).

Cook contested Cutts’ election and was seated in his place on March 3, 1883, the last day of the Congress (!). No revised vote was given in the report.

In 1882, Cutts was elected to the 48th Congress, and served from March 4, 1883, until his death in Oskaloosa, Sept. 1, 1883, before the assembling of the Congress.

Cook was then elected as an Independent Democrat to fill the vacancy caused by Cutts’ death and served from Oct. 9, 1883, to March 3, 1885. He defeated Republican E. H. Stiles (1836-1921) in a special election 14,894 (50.41 percent) to 14,653 (49.59 percent), another close contest.

But the challenge can go the other way.

Another Newton man and would-be member of Congress, boot and shoe merchant Frank T. Campbell (1836-1907), unsuccessfully contested the election of Gen. James B. Weaver (1833-1912), of Bloomfield, to the 49th Congress.

Congress let stand the results of the 1884 election, which had Weaver, the Greenback-Democratic candidate, defeating Republican nominee Campbell 16,684 (50.09 percent) to 16,617 (49.91 percent), a mere 67 votes.

Campbell was not without his claim to fame. He was the first of two Newton men elected Lieutenant Governor of Iowa. He served from 1878 to 1882.

Weaver moved to Colfax in 1896 and served as mayor of the Spring City from 1901 to 1903.

Larry Ray Hurto

Newton