By the early 1940s, Clifford Clinton had become disenchanted with reform Mayor Fletcher Bowron, whom he had help sweep into office during the 1938 recall election that removed Mayor Frank Shaw.
Believing he had a duty to serve his country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Clinton enlisted in the U.S. Army in February of 1942. He left Clifton's in the hands of his wife, Nelda, and Ransom Calicott, the vice president of the company. Mayor Bowron won reelection six months earlier without the support of Clinton, who believed Bowron didn't do enough to smash protected vice in Los Angeles.
After basic training, Clinton was sent to Camp Wallace near Houston where he ran the mess. He was then sent to Fort Benning, Ga., and promoted to acting food service officer. There, he improved the quality of the food and cut down on waste.
While stationed at Fort Benning, Clifford began to receive letters from Aldrich Blake, his political advisor. Blake continued to brief Clinton on Mayor Bowron, who would face another election in 1945. Blake's poll of potential voters revealed strong support for Clinton as a mayoral challenger.
Clinton initially refused. When liberal county Supervisor John Anson Ford announced he would challenge Boweon, Clinton reconsidered because he didn't believe Ford could win. Ford had lost to Mayor Shaw in 1937.
He joined the race and published a treatise of his plan for the city in a 14-page pamphlet, "The Clock Strikes Twelve: It's Time To Act." During the campaign, Clinton pushed for better leadership to deal with ongoing corruption, infrastructure, and racial
On election night, Clinton came in a distant second, losing to Bowron. Instead of being discouraged, Clinton felt relieved that he had fulfilled his political responsibilities to the city.