“Populist Convention” was the headline of an article in the Poway Progress of July 21, 1894. It reported on the San Diego County Convention of the Populist Party held a few days previously in Oceanside.
The San Diego Union reported on the convention as well, albeit in a little less detail than the Poway paper. Perusal of the two papers during that period shows the Progress to be a bit more evenhanded in its reportage on the Populists, compared to the staunchly Republican Union.
But the overall coverage shows that the Populists’ organizational gatherings and campaigns were getting roughly the same attention as the Republicans and Democrats. Clearly the Populist, or People’s Party, had a number of followers in San Diego County at that time.
The party nominated candidates for the state senate, two state assembly districts and two supervisorial districts, as well as for countywide offices like sheriff, treasurer, and district attorney. The party’s nominee for county school superintendant was a woman, Stella Murdock. This was at a time when women didn’t yet have the vote in California.
Among the resolutions passed by the convention was one “endorsing and approving the A.R.U. strike…” This was a strike by members of the American Railway Union against the Pullman Car Company in Illinois. Another pledged the “nominees of the party for county offices to work at least eight hours per day if elected, and to make an earnest effort to run their respective offices on the salaries allowed by law.”
The Populist Party was founded in Omaha, Nebraska in 1892. Among the planks of the party’s national platform were demands for a graduated income tax, government ownership of the railroads, telegraph and telephone systems, women’s suffrage and constitutional amendments limiting the President and Vice-President to one term and for the direct election of U. S. Senators.
Between 1892 and 1900, 40 members of the Populist Party were elected to the United States House of Representatives, two from northern California districts. The same period saw six Populists elected to the U. S. Senate and seven to state governorships, in some cases elected on a fusion ticket with Democrats or Republicans.
Sources for this post included historic San Diego and Poway newspapers, the Library of Congress website and the book, Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, by Theresa Amato.
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The Escondido History Center and the City of Escondido Recreation Department present summer Movies in the Park at Grape Day Park on Saturdays. Next up: Despicable Me 2, August 9. For further info, visit http://www.escondidohistory.org/movies_2014_flyer.pdf .
Vista Historical Society presents their Summer Barbecue at the Vista Historical Museum Saturday, August 16, 4-7 p.m. Good food, live music and free silhouettes by Sweet Silhouette. Tickets $30 per person, $50 per couple, $10 for kids 12 and under. For more info call 760-630-0444.
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