Overcoming Opposition

Campaign Against Tom Watson

"You cannot afford to send a man to congress who will repudiate his government."

“I want to say that it is your fight, the fight of your country, the fight of your boy, the fight of the women in your home, the fight of the helpless babes in your household. It is up to you not only to vote but work and strive to help carry to a successful conclusion. You cannot afford to send a man to congress who will repudiate his government, a man who hates President Wilson worse than the devil hates holy water...

I have an abiding faith in the people to do their duty to grasp the new vision, to do the great things and join here at home in the fight for freedom aiding the boys at the front and in the camps to sustain the principle for which our forefathers fought.”

Editor's Note: During his 50 years in office, Vinson's biggest challenge for his position in Congress came from Georgia politician and populist, Tom Watson. On August 15th, 1918, Watson announced his candidacy for Vinson’s seat in the September Democratic Primary. Watson was a popular but extremely controversial figure in Georgia politics.

At the time Watson challenged Vinson, he had not sought political office for himself since 1895, a total of 20 years. However, he remained an influential voice in local and state politics due to the publication of his weekly newspaper, The Jeffersonian. In 1917, the U.S. Postmaster-General refused to distribute Watson’s paper because of his vocal and vehement opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I and the policies of President Woodrow Wilson.

Vinson successfully made Watson’s stance on the war the focal point of the campaign and painted the voters’ choice as one between loyalty and disloyalty to the nation. Before Watson could fully launch his campaign in earnest, Vinson published his first campaign statement on August 22nd and defined the major topics and debates of the election. In this statement, Vinson reminded voters of his strong record of unwavering support for the country in time of war.

In his campaign against Watson, Vinson proved himself to be a formidable political opponent in addition to a skilled legislator. When the votes were counted, he narrowly defeated Watson for the nomination and he began his third term in office in December of 1918. Watson was by far the toughest challenger Vinson faced on the campaign trail. However, following the 1918 election, Vinson rarely faced opposition for his seat. The few times politicians such as Watson challenged him, Vinson’s shrewd political skills ensured he maintained an undefeated record.