Guess Who Helped Launch Jerry Brown’s Statewide Political Career?

California’s Republican Secretary of State, Frank M. Jordan, died in office on March 29, 1970. He had held the office since 1943.

His father, Frank C. Jordan, was Secretary of State from 1910 to January 18, 1940. He also died in office but not before setting the record for longest continuous service of any Secretary of State in the nation.

Frank M. Jordan

Born in 1888, Jordan the Younger worked on a railroad survey gang, did some mining and was employed for a time by the Automobile Club of Southern California.

A World War I veteran, he operated his own general insurance business before eventually joining his father’s staff as Deputy Secretary of State. He was elected Secretary of State in 1942.

Jordan the Younger’s death left the job of appointing a successor to then Gov. Ronald Reagan.

 At the time, the only statewide office not held by a Republican was Attorney General.

Reagan had an opportunity to appoint a Republican to fill out the last months of Jordan’s term, giving that person a leg-up in the November 1970 election by being able to run as the incumbent.

But the originator of the so-called 11th Commandment — “Never Speak Ill of a Fellow Republican” – thought that was wrong.

“His basic belief was that by appointing somebody and making them an incumbent, it gave them an unfair political advantage over their opponent whoever it might be,” said George Steffes, Reagan’s legislative secretary from 1968 to 1972 and now a Capitol lobbyist.

Reagan’s advisers suggested various possible candidates including a Latino from the Central Valley but the GOP governor insisted the party’s nominating process not be circumvented.

Reagan said he would only appoint someone who agreed to fill out the rest of Jordan’s term and not seek re-election.

That person was Henry Patrick Sullivan who went by “H.P.”

Born in 1921 in New York City, Sullivan was educated at the University of Pennsylvania then went to work on the West Coast.

He was Registrar of Voters in Santa Clara County from 1954 to 1967 before joining the Secretary of State’s staff in 1967 as Assistant Secretary of State.

Two Republicans squared off for the 1970 Secretary of State nomination.

George Milias, then a four-term Assemblyman from Gilroy and James L. Flournoy, a Los Angeles lawyer.

Flournoy beat Milias, who died in 1977, in the primary.

Flournoy was the first African American nominated for partisan statewide office in California.

In the 1970 election, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State was a 32-year-old member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. He had just been elected to the post in 1969 but had far better name ID than Flournoy:

Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

Brown won handily, beating Flournoy by almost 300,000 votes.

Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Flournoy deputy director of the Department of Motor Vehicles in 1983. Flournoy died in March 2009 at the age of 93.

Brown’s political career is amply documented elsewhere.




Filed under: California History

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