By Richard I. Gibson
The headlines above focused Anaconda Standard readers on December 31, 1894 on the ongoing U.S. Senate contest. (Click image at right to enlarge the article, then "view image" and click the plus to make the image bigger) Wait a minute – the Senate race was still in progress December 31? Wasn’t the election November 6? Well, yes. But remember that state legislators elected U.S. Senators then, and they did not meet until January to do that deed.
The 1894 election in Montana was overshadowed by the state capital fight, won by Helena over Anaconda (by the narrow margin of 51.8%), but the vagaries of politics in Montana were well in evidence in other races as well.
Montana only had one senator in 1894, because one seat was vacant. The legislature in 1893 had failed to choose a senator in one of W.A. Clark’s first hard-fought campaigns. Various machinations led to the Governor appointing Butte’s Lee Mantle to the post, but the U.S. Senate did not seat him, in part because of opposition to cases where gubernatorial appointments came about due to legislative inaction, and perhaps in part through Clark’s lobbying. In any case, the newly elected 1894 state legislature would meet in January 1895 to elect two senators instead of the usual one: first, a short-termer, to fill out the vacant slot, and the other to the regular six-year term.
For much more about Montana politics in the 1890s, see Michael Malone’s The Battle For Butte, especially pages 94-105.
Images of Mantle and Carter from Wikipedia; Anaconda Standard article from Dec. 31, 1894, from Library of Congress.