Fusionists sweep statewide offices in Washington general election on November 3, 1896.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 10/06/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5564

On November 3, 1896, a coalition of "Silver Republicans," Democrats, and Populists unseat Republicans in the general election. John R. Rogers (1838-1901) is elected governor and James Hamilton Lewis (1863-1939) and William Carey Jones (1855-1927) are chosen as Representatives to Congress. Fusionists also take over the legislature that will elect the Silver Republican George Turner (1850-1932) from Spokane to a six-year term as U.S. Senator.

The Panic of 1893 hit Washington hard, especially farmers. Fusionists believed that an inflationary monetary policy that tied value of the dollar to silver rather than to gold would resolve the economic crisis. The Silver Republicans, the Democrats, and the Populists formed a coalition in Ellensburg and posed a slate of candidates. Democrat William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) ran as the Fusionist candidate for president and he carried the state. Republican William McKinley (1843-1901) won the presidency, however.

John Rogers was a leading Populist and had sponsored the "Barefoot Schoolboy Law," which paid school districts six dollars a year for every child in school. The Fusionist platform proposed free schoolbooks, reductions in railroad freight and passenger rates, a reduction in the salaries for elected officials, and woman suffrage.

Much of the basis for support of the Fusionists dissolved when the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 brought prosperity back to the state. Republicans returned to take over the state House of Representatives in 1898.

The vote for electors for President were as follows:

  • Democrat - 51,557
  • Republican - 39,124


Edgar I. Stewart, Washington: Northwest Frontier (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1957), 178-179; "1896 Election Results," 1896 Presidential Election Website created by Rebecca Edwards and Sarah Defeo, a Vassar College website (www.iberia.vassar.edu/1896/ electionresults.html/statebystate); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (http://bioguide.congress.gov/ biosearch/biosearch.asp).

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