This Day in Milwaukee County history: On May 6th, 1912, in response to the Socialist domination of the 1910 Milwaukee municipal elections, the Wisconsin State Legislature approves a non-partisan election bill that removes party designation from the ballot.
The 1910 elections had swept in many Socialist reformers to local offices – among their ranks included Mayor Emil Seidel and City Attorney Daniel W. Hoan In response to their loss of political influence within the State’s most populous city, Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans combined forces in order to remove their mutually held rivals. Their tactics included supporting the same candidate, Gerhard A. Bading, during the 1912 mayoral elections, as well as outlawing all political affiliations within municipal offices.
These attempts to curb Socialist power within the City of Milwaukee were a spectacular failure. For a period of 50 years, not including a brief interregnum between 1912 and 1916, socialist-minded politicians dominated all levels of the municipal government. The era produced some of Milwaukee’s best-known Mayors, including Daniel Hoan and Frank Zeidler. Milwaukee holds the distinct honor of electing both the first and the most recent socialist mayor of any major American city and is home to the longest continuous socialist administration in the country. It wasn’t until the election of Henry W. Maier in 1960 that Milwaukee’s socialist-experimentation came to a close.