Harold E. Stassen, a former president of the University of Pennsylvania and frequent candidate for the presidency, easily captured the Republican nomination for mayor of Philadelphia on this day in 1959, pitting him against immensely popular Democratic incumbent Richardson Dilworth in the general election.
Running with the support of Philadelphia’s Republican City Committee — the same organization that only a year earlier had opposed the former Minnesota governor and ex-Eisenhower disarmament adviser in his unsuccessful bid for his party’s gubernatorial nomination — Stassen easily defeated Ralph C. Morrone and Joseph A. Schafer, both Republican city committeemen, to capture his party’s nomination.
Preliminary returns gave Stassen 56,530 votes to Morrone’s 14,090 and 11,566 for Schafer, who was supported by the hastily-organized “Republican Committee to Stop Stassen.”
The GOP hadn’t won a mayoral election in Philadelphia since 1947.
In becoming his party’s sacrificial lamb that autumn, the 52-year-old Stassen laid out an ambitious eight-point program for the City of Brotherly Love, promising, among other things, to create 80,000 more jobs over the next four years, a 25 percent reduction in “violent crime” and better pay for police and firemen.
As expected, Dilworth slaughtered the one-time “boy wonder” of American politics by nearly 209,000 votes in November.