1931 Chicago mayoral election

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Chicago Mayoral election, 1931

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  Anton Cermak cph.3b27410.jpg William Hale Thompson head shot (a).tiff
Nominee Anton Cermak William Hale Thompson
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 671,189 476,922
Percentage 58.4% 41.5%

Chicago 1931 mayor by ward.png
Results by ward.

Mayor before election

William Hale Thompson

Elected Mayor

Anton Cermak

The 1931 Chicago mayoral election was held to elect the Mayor of Chicago. Former Cook County Board of Commissioners President Anton Cermak defeated incumbent mayor William Hale Thompson (who remains to date the last Republican mayor of Chicago) by a 17-point margin of victory.[1][2]


  • Anton Cermak, Cook County Board of Commissioners President from 1923 to 1931
  • John M. Collins[3]
  • Otto H. Wangerin[3]
  • Herman N. Bundeson[3]
  • Charles Cutteng[3]
  • Dallas Killiam[3]
  • R.J. Williamson[3]
  • Carter Harrison[3]
  • Louis J. Orr[3]
  • Winfield O. Williams[3]
  • Judge Lagle[3]

Democratic primary

Republican primary

The Republican primary took place on Feb 24, 1931.[4]

John Homer Lyle was characterized by Time magazine as a. " publicity-crazed Municipal Judge"[5]

Ugly name-calling took place between Thompson and Lyle.[5] Thompson derided Lyle as a, "nutty judge".[5] Lyle called Thompson "William Halitosis Thompson" and characterized him as having the "flabby jowls of a barnyard hog, two jackass ears, a cowboy hat and an empty space between."[5] Other insults slung around between the two included dirty rat, hoodlum, lazy bloodsucking jobber, blustering loudmouth, irresponsible mountebank, blubbering jungle hippopotamus, shambling imbecile, skunk, and a "chambermaid in a ranch bunkhouse".[5]

Republican primary results[4]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican William Hale Thompson (incumbent) 296,204 47.52
Republican John Homer Lyle 227,986 36.58
Republican Arthur F. Albert 99,137 15.90
Total votes 623,327 100.00

General election


With the Century of Progress approaching, Chicago would be electing a mayor that (barring extraordinary circumstances) was going to represent the city in front of an international audience.

During the campaign Thompson made many appeals to nativism. One such example was his appeal to antisemitism by villainization of Jewish businessman Julius Rosenwald. In one speech delivered in March he said of Rosenwald, "Well, we got a great philanthropist in this town, and he's a Jew, and he's trying to edge his way out of hell by giving part of the money he steals."[6][7]

Since Cermak was an immigrant from Bohemia, Thompson lodged ethnic attacks

I won't take a back seat to that Bohunk, Chairmock, Chermack or whatever his name is.
Tony, Tony, where's your pushcart at?
Can you picture a World's Fair mayor with a name like that?

Cermak was able to respond effectively to these attacks, "He doesn't like my name...It's true I didn't come over on the Mayflower, but I came over as soon as I could," which was a sentiment to which ethnic Chicagoans could relate, so Thompson's slurs largely backfired.[8]

In the midst of the campaign, the Chicago Tribune ran articles outlining Al Capone's financial contributions to Republican politicians.[9] The newspapers also covered allegations that Samuel Insull had contributed money to Thompson's campaign.[9] The Tribune wrote, "When the traction case was settled during Thompson's third term Insull was given a perpetual franchise that could not be terminated even for misuse non use or mal use".[9]


Mayor of Chicago 1931 (General Election)[1][3]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Anton Cermak 671,189 58.44
Republican William Hale Thompson (incumbent) 476,922 41.53
Unknown John M. Collins 219 0.02
Unknown Otto H. Wangerin 124 0.01
Unknown Herman N. Bundeson 4 0.00
Unknown Charles Cutteng 1 0.00
Unknown Dallas Killiam 1 0.00
Unknown R.J. Williamson 1 0.00
Unknown Carter Harrison 1 0.00
Unknown Louis J. Orr 1 0.00
Unknown Winfield O. Williams 1 0.00
Unknown Judge Lagle 1 0.00
Turnout 1,148,465 100.00

Thompson carried only five of the city's fifty wards.[10]

Cermak received 76.80% of the Polish-American vote, while Thompson received 23.20%.[11]


  1. ^ a b . Board of Elections Commissioners. 1931. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Chicago Mayors, 1837-2007". Encyclopedia of Chciago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Names of Candidates. Board of Elections Commissioners. 1931.
  4. ^ a b https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=283328 RaceID=283328 (Our Campaigns)
  5. ^ a b c d e National Affairs: Chicago Circus (Time Magazine) Feb. 23, 1931
  6. ^ Bukowski, Douglas (1998). Big Bill Thompson, Chicago, and the Politics of Image. University of Illinois Press.
  7. ^ Mackerels in the Moonlight: Four Corrupt American Mayors By Gerald Leinwand (page 63)
  8. ^ Wendt, Lloyd (1979). Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper. Chicago: Rand McNally. ISBN 0-528-81826-0.
  9. ^ a b c Schottenhamel, George. “How Big Bill Thompson Won Control of Chicago.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, vol. 45, no. 1, 1952, pp. 30–49. JSTOR
  10. ^ Selzer, Adam (13 February 2015). "Rahm might be bad, but Chicago's last Republican mayor was worse". TimeOut. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  11. ^ Kantowicz, Edward. “The Emergence of the Polish-Democratic Vote in Chicago.” Polish American Studies, vol. 29, no. 1/2, 1972, pp. 67–80. JSTOR, JSTOR
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