the history nebraska blog

Senator Cody

It’s that time in the political calendar when candidates and incumbents announce their

intention to run for public office. Some names are brand new on the scene; other officeseekers

have what’s known by campaign managers as “good name recognition.”

One former Nebraska legislative candidate had name recognition in spades–none other than

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. In 1872, some of Cody’s friends secured his nomination as

the Democratic aspirant for the 26th District seat in the Nebraska legislature. The district

included Buffalo, Cheyenne, Dawson, Franklin, Harlan, Kearney, and Lincoln counties, as

well as some unorganized territory.

As a Democrat Cody had little hope of being elected from the predominately Republican

district, and later wrote in his autobiography, “I cared very little about it, and therefore made

no effort whatever to secure my election.” The Cody name, however, proved a powerful

draw. The returns filed with the Board of Canvassers located in Lincoln County gave Cody a

margin of 44 votes over his opponent, D. T. Ashburn of Gibbon.

The election was immediately contested by Ashburn supporters, who charged that the returns

were incomplete. An investigation revealed that the County Clerk of Harlan County had sent

his returns to Lincoln, Nebraska, rather than Lincoln County, Nebraska. When the additional

votes were tabulated, Ashburn received the majority.

“Senator” Cody never appeared at the Capitol to claim his seat, since he was opening his first

stage production in New York. By virtue of the corrected returns, the House Committee on

Privileges and Elections awarded the seat to Ashburn.

Cody’s eventual success in the Wild West arena no doubt amply compensated him for his

“failure” in the political arena.


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