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November 5, 1918 – Henry Ford loses US Senate election

The United States gubernatorial, house and senate elections took place throughout the United States on November 5, 1918. One of those races would elect a new Class 1 U.S. Senator from the State of Michigan. Running was the former Secretary of the Navy, republican Truman Handy Newberry, and industrialist Henry Ford. Ford originally attempted to run as a republican, but failed to gain the nomination during the primaries. He switched to the democratic party in order to run. The switcheroo didn’t matter; when the votes were tallied, Newberry was the new US Senator from Michigan, earning 50.19% of the vote.

The race was fairly difficult for Ford, who was attacked by Newberry for his pacifism during World War I. Newberry even accused Ford of helping his son avoid the draft and hammered Ford for his antisemetic views.

Truman Hardy Newberry

Ford, never one to let things go, employed at least 40 private investigators to analyze the election for signs of fraud or other issues. Eventually, they would find Newberry was in violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which barred candidates for the Senate from spending more than $10,000 during their campaigns at the time. The investigation revealed Newberry spent upwards of $100,000 during just the Republican primary. His spending habits would lead to a conviction in 1921.

Newberry would successfully appeal his conviction to the US Supreme Court, who ruled in a 5-4 decision that the FCPA was unconstitutional in Newberry v. United States. Newberry kept his seat, but he other senators frowned upon him for his spending practices. He ultimately resigned in 1922, succeeded by James J. Couzens, a former employee of Ford.


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