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Tracing Tracy Territory

75 years ago: a governor with bipartisan appeal

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Republican Party voters in the Tracy area did their part re-electing Earl Warren governor of California 75 years ago this week.

And in the same primary election on June 4, 1946, so did Democratic Party voters. They, too, helped re-elect Republican Warren.

Warren didn’t work any magic getting elected in a primary election without having to face the general election in November of that year. He just captured a majority of votes in both major political parties. This was allowed by the California election law that permitted candidates to file on both major parties’ tickets.

With 19 precincts in Tulare Township (the Tracy area) reporting, Warren polled 707 votes on the Republican ballot to opponent Robert Kenny’s paltry 45. Democrats voted 695 for Warren and 469 for Kenny.

Warren, who was first elected governor in 1942, had been district attorney of Alameda County and attorney general of California. His brand of moderate, even progressive politics appealed to both Republican and Democratic voters throughout California, and Tracy, too.

In 1946, Tracy had a core of Democratic voters in Southern Pacific employees and their families. The railroad was still Tracy’s largest employer. Their support of Republican Warren helped bolster his reputation as a candidate appealing to a wide spectrum of California voters.

For Republicans, Warren’s successful efforts as governor to bring fiscal responsibility to state goverment was important. Warren also worked hard at building California’s university systems into national leaders in post-secondary education.

Warren’s re-election in 1946 also kept him in the national political arena after turning down New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey’s request that he serve as his Republican vice presidential running mate in 1944.

In 1948, Warren accepted Dewey’s second offer to join the Republican ticket, but Dewey unexpectedly lost to Harry S. Truman in the general election.

Warren had support of many California Republicans in 1952 as a vice-presidential candidate to join Dwight Eisenhower’s ticket, but a fast-rising California senator, Richard Nixon, worked hard behind the scenes of the Republican Convention to undermine Warren’s home-state support and grabbed the nomination himself.

Warren’s reputation as an effective, popular governor of California established him as a leading candidate for chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. He was appointed by President Eisenhower and almost immediately led the court to a unanimous decision in the Brown vs. The Board of Education landmark decision that ruled against segregation of the nation’s schools.

Warren retired from the court in 1969 and died five years later. The Warren Freeway connecting Oakland and Berkeley through the East Bay Hills bears his name.

In 1951, Warren came to Tracy to dedicate the completion of the Tracy Pumping Plant and Delta-Mendota Canal of the Central Valley Project.

Along with Hiram Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, Earl Warren was one of California’s best known political leaders. Tracy voters three-quarters of a century ago helped him reach the heights of not only the political world, but also the judiciary as well.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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