Gahagan Douglas concluded that Downey needed to be taught a lesson for becoming conservative as a Democrat during the Great Depression, so she challenged Downey in the Democratic primary. By that time, Gahagan Douglas had married the famous movie actor Melvyn Douglas, and they had become the classic liberal couple in Hollywood. Gahagan Douglas had won a seat in Congress in 1944, and she was a favorite of both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt. Helen Gahagan Douglas, like Jerry Voorhis, was more of a show horse than a workhorse, but she was an earnest diva, putting in enough hours to become familiar with a range of issues.
Gahagan Douglas had become used to the spotlight and criticism, but she failed to see the coming seachange in the political landscape after World War II, and that’s where Nixon would have her beat. California Democratic leaders wanted her to drop her challenge to Downey in 1950, and if she did so, she would be rewarded with the state party’s support to pursue the other CA Senate seat in 1952, held by William Knowland. The supporters of Gahagan Douglas assumed that her aura would carry the day, no matter the challenger or the situation. and perhaps Gahagan Douglas viewed herself in the same way since she refused to withdraw from the Senate Democratic primary in 1950.
The CA Democratic leadership asked Gahagan Douglas to reverse her stand on the Tidelands Oil issue, and she refused to do so, even though that would have meant more than enough money for her campaign. As a result, money poured in against her from conservative industrial/commercial oil interests, which meant she was totally dependent on New Deal liberals from the start of her campaign. During October 1949, Gahagan Douglas officially declared herself a candidate for the US Senate from California.
Nixon had to get the blessings of CA Governor Earl Warren and Senator Knowland, and the Lt. Governor of CA needed to stay out of the race altogether. Nixon also knew that he needed the political editor of the Los Angeles Times, Kyle Palmer, in his corner. Palmer hadn’t fully supported Nixon in 1946 until the campaign was at its end, but he had kept track of Nixon since, and he wasn’t going to wait too long in 1950. Palmer also knew that Warren and Knowland owed the LA Times for its support of their winning campaigns, so that meant that Palmer was able to get both CA politicians on board the Nixon train. It was the start of a sort of political bromance between Nixon and the LA Times that would continue while Nixon was in the Senate.
Palmer’s vision was that there would be a President from California that was at least partially beholden to the Los Angeles Times . . . and Kyle Palmer. Palmer’s #1 guy for that dream was Earl Warren, but Palmer decided to hedge his bet with Nixon, who he viewed as an excellent backup. Palmer helped clear the way for Nixon on the CA Republican Party, telling those that needed to know that the LA Times was only going to support Nixon; the clear implication was that if the CA Republicans wanted the support of the LA Times, find another election in which to run.
Chotiner was paid $937.50/month to be Nixon’s point man, and his first order of business was to make Nixon’s name known to all of California instead of only in the 12th Congressional District. Chotiner set up two separate campaign committees for Nixon, one in Southern CA and the other in Northern CA, since each were politically different regions. Early in the campaign, Chotiner warned Nixon that the Republican party couldn’t be the “Party of No”, and that Nixon would have to be able to answer questions and communicate solutions (e.g. Truman’s plan for health care vs. Republican outcries that it was Socialism). Chotiner kept reminding Nixon that, as a Republican, he needed to do more than just point out the evils of a Democratic plan or strategy.
Then, a federal judge in essence set aside the perjury conviction of Alger Hiss, and Nixon demanded an investigation of the judge. Given this great opportunity for a retrial, Hiss, who always thought he was smarter than everyone else, changed his lawyer . . . the very lawyer that had succeeded in reversing his perjury conviction.
On 21 January 1950, Alger Hiss, with his new lawyer, was again found guilty of perjury. Nixon could breathe easier, since his crowning achievement that had made him a national political figure, the discovery that Alger Hiss had given information to the USSR while working in the State Department, was still valid (the statute of limitations had expired for espionage, so the best Nixon and HUAC could do was to go after Hiss for perjury). Nixon wanted/needed his Cold War Communist-hunting credentials to be immaculate for his campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas for the US Senate in California in 1950, so on the House floor, Nixon retraced what he had always called the “Hiss Case”.