The 1924 United States Senate election in Iowa took place on November 4, 1924. Incumbent Republican Senator Smith W. Brookhart ran for re-election to a full term in office against Democrat Daniel F. Steck.
In the initial vote, Brookhart was certified as the victor over Steck. However, Steck became the first person to successfully challenge a popular election to the Senate in 1926, when the Senate voted to remove Brookhart from office and seat Steck in his place.
- Smith W. Brookhart, incumbent Senator since 1922
- Burton E. Sweet, former U.S. Representative from Waverly and candidate for Senate in 1922
|Republican||Smith W. Brookhart (incumbent)||199,828||55.01%|
|Republican||Burton E. Sweet||163,413||44.99%|
- John D. Denison, candidate for U.S. Representative in 1910
- Charles Rollin Keyes, geologist, ornithologist, and candidate for U.S. Senate in 1918
- Daniel F. Steck, commander of the Iowa American Legion
|Democratic||Daniel F. Steck||21,318||38.98%|
|Democratic||John D. Denison||19,738||36.09%|
|Democratic||Charles R. Keyes||13,639||24.94%|
Brookhart, though nominally a Republican, had alienated most of the national and state party establishment by 1924. As early as 1920, he had rankled senior Republicans with his courting of blue-collar union voters and his primary challenge to senior Senator Albert B. Cummins. In 1924, he demanded the withdrawal of vice presidential nominee Charles Dawes and declined to support President Calvin Coolidge for re-election, though he did not outright endorse Progressive Robert M. La Follette.
During the campaign, the Republican State Central Committee withdrew support from Brookhart and one Republican organization went so far as to distribute sample ballots showing a 'x' in the Republican column with another 'x' next to Steck's name.
By October, all but one of the state's Republican daily newspapers had endorsed Steck.
On the day of the election, some newspapers reported that Steck had won. However, two days later, rural districts gave Brookhart a small lead. His victory was certified and he was seated for a full term as Senator.
|Republican||Smith W. Brookhart (incumbent)||447,706||49.95%||13.16|
|Democratic||Daniel F. Steck||446,951||49.87%||12.98|
|Independent Republican||Luther Brewer||1,124||0.13%||N/A|
Aftermath and reversalEdit
After the election, the Senate Republicans retaliated by stripping Brookhart, LaFollette, and two other progressive Republicans of their committee appointments and excluding them from the party conference.
In January, Steck served notice of his intention to challenge Brookhart's inauguration for the new term on the grounds of election fraud. The Iowa Republican Party also challenged Brookhart's election on the grounds that he was not a Republican.
Steck's challenge alleged that thousands of ballots were unlawfully counted for Brookhart while many of his own were discarded or altered.
The Iowa Republican challenge alleged that Brookhart had fraudulently represented himself as a party member until the filing deadline, and then toured the state supporting the principles and candidates of the Progressive Party. The state committee argued that Republicans had in good faith voted for a person they assumed to be a regular party member, and that Brookhart had therefore committed election fraud.
Investigation and recountEdit
A subcommittee of two Republicans and two Democrats commenced the investigation of the case on July 20, 1925. By agreement of Brookhart and Steck, all of the more than 900,000 ballots were transported from Iowa to Washington for a recount.
A number of disputed ballots had evidently attempted to replicate local newspaper endorsements for Steck by drawing an arrow pointing to the box marked for Steck; these ballots had been excluded from the original count under an Iowa law banning extraneous markings but were counted by the subcommittee on the grounds that it was clear the voter had meant. Some ballots arrived in Washington with broken seals and there were discrepancies between the voter rolls and the number of ballots received.
On March 29, 1926, the committee issued its report finding that that Steck had received a plurality of 1,420 votes and should be seated. In a minority report, Senator Hubert D. Stephens protested that some ballots had not been properly examined and secured, that 3,500 fewer ballots were received than cast, and that the majority did not count 1,300 properly marked straight Republican ballots for Brookhart.
Senate debate and voteEdit
In the debate before the whole Senate, speeches focused on the conflict between Iowa state election law and the federal recount. Brookhart's supporters maintained that there was no precedent for overruling state election laws in reviewing contested elections.
On April 12, the Senate voted 45 to 41 to unseat Brookhart and seat Steck.
Steck became the first Democrat to represent Iowa in the Senate since 1859. He served out the remainder of that term which ultimately became his. He was soundly defeated for re-election in 1930, the only incumbent Democrat in the country to lose in that cycle. Though they gained eight seats nationwide, Steck's loss cost Democrats control of the Senate.
Brookhart ran for Senate again in 1926 and unseated Senator Cummins, who died shortly after the primary. He served until 1933, when he was defeated by Henry Field in the Republican primary. Brookhart ran in the 1932 general election as a Progressive, but finished a distant third behind Field and the Democratic victor, Richard L. Murphy.
- "Our Campaigns - IA US Senate Race - R Primary". www.ourcampaigns.com.
- "Our Campaigns - IA US Senate Race - D Primary". www.ourcampaigns.com.
- "Cummins Seems Choice of Black Hawk Co. Voters". Waterloo Evening Courier. 4 June 1920. p. 1.
- "The Election Case of Daniel F. Steck v. Smith W. Brookhart of Iowa (1926)". Retrieved 11 Mar 2021.
- "Day's Editorials". The Des Moines Capital. 19 Oct 1924. p. 4., reprinted from Marshalltown Times-Republican.
- "Steck Defeats Brookhart by Margin of 5,000". Waterloo Evening Courier. 5 Nov 1924. p. 1.
- "Brookhart Takes Lead on Recheck of Ballots". Waterloo Evening Courier. 6 Nov 1924. p. 1.
- "Our Campaigns - IA US Senate Race - Nov 04, 1924". www.ourcampaigns.com.
- Clerk of the United States House of Representatives (1925). "Statistics of the Congressional and Presidential Election of November 4, 1924" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office.
- "Control of the Senate in the 70th Congress". CQ Researcher. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
- "Senate Debate on the Brookhart-Steck Contest". Congressional Record. LXVII (7): 7301.
- "Senate Debate on the Brookhart-Steck Contest" (PDF). Congressional Record. LXVII (7): 7241–53.
- George William McDaniel (Winter 1987). "The Republican Party in Iowa and the Defeat of Smith Wildman Brookhart, 1924-1926". The Annals of Iowa. 48 (7): 413–34. doi:10.17077/0003-4827.9195.