As befitting the reported founder of three cities, Phil Stanton was apparently quite the social guy.
From the time he arrived in Los Angeles in 1887, Stanton wasted no time meeting people and making connections. Within his first year he had joined two Sons of Civil War Veterans groups, was President of the Unity Social Circle (March 1888), and floor manager for the Angeleno Social Club’s second hop of the season. (April 1888).

He also quickly got involved with local politics. By November of 1888, the LA Times lists him as “among the more prominent men” in the Third Ward of the Republican City Convention. In 1892, he was also on the City of Los Angeles’ 1892 4th of July Celebration Committee, and three years later, he had to miss some appointments with I.W. Hellman’s son because he was very involved with the planning of Los Angeles’ second annual Fiesta (a week-long Carnival like celebration that not only brought visitors and business to downtown Los Angeles, but according to the local church leaders, brought out those who were more sexually active than the town morals police preferred).

With the economy being pretty bad through most of the 1890s – some say overall, it was worse than our current woes — Stanton apparently had plenty of time to get involved in politics. He built up a lot of favors — sometimes traveling to Sacramento to represent Los Angeles realtors there — and building strong relationships with “The Push,” the Southern Pacific’s state-wide ward-dominated political machine. In 1902, with his financial ambitions sky high as Henry Huntington’s new railroad moved towards Long Beach (and then inevitably towards Stanton’s West Coast Land Company property), he also decided to run for the state assembly’s 71st District seat, (downtown Los Angeles) against a popular candidate. He was basically ridiculed by The LA Times, but thanks to his relationship with the SP group, Stanton won the Republican caucus nomination (by one vote) after, according to the LA Times, the old guard “push” politicians “manipulated the subconvention in such a manner as to defeat Charles Udell, a well-known and substantial citizen.” The Times thought Stanton’s chances in the general election quite slim (or so they printed, but truth and the LA Times were often strangers), but again, with the power of the SP machine behind him, the votes of some fictitious voters, and well-designed schmoozing in the local Democratic wards (where apparently the brewers told the saloon keepers it was in their best interests to push the Republican Stanton), Stanton won the election.
His first term in office was not that impressive, — the LA Times said you had to fumigate his record before you could look at it — but he won reelection in 1904.
About this time Stanton also benefited from a change in management of the LA Times. Publisher Harrison Gray Otis — who despised the Southern Pacific and most of what and who it supported — finally stepped back and his son-in-law Harry Chandler started assuming most of the paper’s publisher duties. Chandler was more interested in real estate than newspapers, and Stanton could be an influential voice for him in Sacramento. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Stanton’s influence as a leader of the SoCal Republican party grew, and in 1906 he was considered for Assembly Speaker. He settled for Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee.
He was in attendance at the notorious 1906 Republican convention in Santa Cruz in which SP political leaders and San Francisco political boss Abe Reuf were photographed basically annointing George Gillette as Governor prior to the convention. Stanton was lucky to not have his photo included in the San Francisco Call’s photo “The Shame of a Nation.” which illustrated the Southern Pacific’s stranglehold on California politics.
Shortly after this, Stanton and some Orange County coastside land owners felt the OC Supervisors weren’t paying enough attention to the coastal towns, so he introduced legislation in Sacramento to transfer what is now Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach into Los Angeles County. As Stanton had some power and influence in Sacramento, the Supervisors got the point.
In 1909, Stanton, who by now was considered and derided as a major political insider and member of the Republican “Old Guard,” ascended to the Assembly Speakers position. (Replacing him as Chairman of the Ways and means Committee was J.P. Transue, who would later show up as the secretary of Stanton’s Bayside Land Company.) According to his official bio, As Assembly speaker, Stanton was instrumental in suppressing anti-Japanese legislation, and “largely responsible for legislation abolishing race track gambling and for enactment of direct primary election law.”
When a vacancy came up on the Orange County Board of Supervisors Stanton worked to have his political crony Governor Gillett appoint T.B. Talbert to the Board. Talbert was a fellow realtor, one of the first persons to buy a lot at Stanton’s Pacific City, and he would be helpful to Stanton’s interests over the years to come.

Statewide, this was the time when the Progressive movement started building traction, not only throughout California, but the nation.  In California, it was a newspaper-led revolt against the Southern Pacific’s stranglehold on politics.  The movement got many legislators elected in 1908, but the SP still controlled a majority, and they used it to get Stanton elected as the Speaker of the Assembly.  Stanton’s work was a study in contradictons.  He worked with President Roosevelt to derail anti-Japanese legislation, but he also fought hard against efforts to give women the right to vote.   He also spearheaded a bill to ban racetrack gambling in California.  (Of course, the fact that this meant people might have to chose going to the beach for their recreation probably never entered the equation.)  Stanton’s legislative leadership indicates  that he, like the railroad he fronted, was a pragmatist.  The Progressive movement was powerful so Stanton and the SP were cooperative — to a point.  The Progressives introduced many bills, but Stanton and his allies used committees and amendments to blunt or tailor much of the legislation.

The most significant piece of legislation to come out during Stanton’s tenure as assembly leader was the direct primary law.  It wasn’t anywhere near as strong as the Progressive leaders  wished and originally proposed, but its passage gave voters more say in the election of their governor and legislators.

Stanton sought the Governor’s position in 1910 and the Times heavily backed him (running numerous headlines extolling such fabrications as a “Wave of support for Stanton,” “One of the best-run campaigns ever,” etc.)  but Stanton fell to the Progressive wave, placing a distant fourth in an election won by Hiram Johnson. Ironically, the direct primary election law which Stanton had nursed into law, worked against him in this election,.  Despite the backing of the party machinery and the SP, Johnson overwhelmingly won the popular vote. Johnson then oversaw numerous Progressive changes — including the right to recall a Governor, and the referendum. Johnson’s reforms went well beyond what Stanton and other Republicans wanted.

Before Stanton left office, he fulfilled one valuable task that would ultimately benefit Seal Beach. San Francisco was planning on hosting the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. At this time it was in its early formative stages, and was actually competing with San Diego which was also considering a fair. San Francisco financiers and businessman had already raised a significant sum, but they needed legislative approval to call for a bond in the next election and receive some state monies as well. On the organizing committee was I.W. Hellman’s oldest son, Marco Hellman. The San Francisco committee paid to have the state legislature called back into session for a vote on this item, but also engaged Phil Stanton (with Albert Lindley) to do some “missionary work in Southern California.” Stabton attended a September 17 meeting of the Southern california Editorial Association and schmoozed and cajoled and ending up getting all the Southern California editors to wholeheartedly back the San Francisco project. The legislature approved adding the bond issue to the November ballot, and in November the people of the state approved a tax amendment and bond authorization and one week later the people of San Francisco approved an amendment allowing for a bond — 42,040 for and only 2,122 against.

Stanton’s career as an elected official ended with the same election. but he along with LA Times Publisher, Harrison Gray Otis, became leaders of the “Get Johnson” league and after the Progressive Party imploded in 1912-13 they succeeded in helping remove their fellow Republican from office in 1914.

But a more immediate item on Stanton’s agenda involved his properties west of Anaheim. In 1911, that city bought a 75-acre tract of land between Gilbert and Magnolia and determined to put a sewer farm on it. Located in the Carbon Creek depression, gravity would cause all the sewage in Anaheim to make its way to that site. Despite selling off much of his land in the area — remember he had optioned over 3500 acres back in 1889 — Stanton was still the largest landowner in this area and he and a number of other farmers met a number of times to discuss their options. Getting legal advice — and no doubt input from Stanton — they agreed to incorporate as a city of the sixth class. “Naturally a good part of the planning devolved upon me,” Stanton later wrote, “but I was more than surprised when at one of the meetings of the farmers [by] a unanimous vote, and over my protest they decided to name it after me.”

By 1918 Anaheim had built an outflow sewer to the sea, and the residents of Stanton decided to unincorporate. By then Phil Stanton had moved on to other things himself. He became the Southern California representative to the National Republican Committee and was a significant player during his term, and he also settled for appointments to the State Transportation Committee, which gave him considerable influence over getting good roads to many of the newer developments in the state — including his own expanding resort south of Long Beach — Seal Beach, the Jewel of the Pacific Coast.

And that, we will leave to next time.

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