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The Election Case of John R. Neal v. A.T. (Tom) Stewart of Tennessee (1943)

Tom Stewart

Campaign financing; campaign irregularities.

Petition received: Feb. 4, 1943
Referred to committee: Feb. 4, 1943
Committee report: Feb. 25, 1943
Senate vote: Feb. 25, 1943

Result: Stewart retained seat

Democrat Tom Stewart first came to the United States Senate in 1939 to fill the unexpired term of the recently deceased Tennessee Senator Nathan L. Bachman. Stewart's opponent in that contest, John R. Neal, had filed an unsuccessful petition of contest with the United States Senate. The 1942 Tennessee senatorial election pitted the two against each other for a second time, with Neal opposing Stewart in the Democratic primary and after his defeat running as an Independent in the general election. Once again, Tom Stewart claimed the victory and came to Washington to assume his Senate duties.

Statement of the Case
Tom Stewart appeared and was seated on January 6, 1943. On February 4, John Neal filed a petition challenging Stewart's election. While John Neal conceded that Stewart's nomination in the August 6, 1942, Democratic primary had been proper and legal, he based his protest on the charge that his right to run as an independent candidate had been systematically hampered by the planned efforts of Stewart and other Democrats running for state offices. Neal alleged that Stewart and the Democratic candidates for governor and state commissioner for public utilities supported one another's election and that they had illegally spent more than $200,000. Neal also charged that this Democratic team raised money by assessments on federal employees living in the state and obtained votes by threatening relief recipients with the loss of their aid. In some regions of the state, Neal claimed, his own name had been deliberately omitted from the ballot. The challenger therefore asked the Senate to disqualify Stewart and declare that Neal had been elected. The Senate referred the petition to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Response of the Senate
On February 25, 1943, after reviewing Neal's allegations, the committee returned a brief report favorable to Tom Stewart. None of the charges had convinced the committee to recommend a formal investigation into the Tennessee election, and the committee unanimously voted to dismiss Neal's petition. The Senate agreed to this action by voice vote the same day.

Tom Stewart served in the Senate until 1949. Not renominated in 1948, he returned to Tennessee and practiced law. He died in 1972.

Source: Adapted from Anne M. Butler and Wendy Wolff. United States Senate Election, Expulsion, and Censure Cases, 1793-1990. S. Doc. 103-33. Washington, GPO, 1995.

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