From Champaign to Washington
Founding and developing thriving electric and transportation companies was only an opening act for McKinley. In 1905, McKinley was elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives. He split his time between Champaign and his Washington home on Farragut Square blocks from the White House. He was described as an effective representative who shared a name with the slain former United States President William McKinley.
The Voters in east-central Illinois elected him to Congress seven times (1905-1913 and 1915-1921). He was mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor but instead ran for the United States Senate. He served one term (1921-1926). He lost a dirty campaign in 1926 to Frank Smith, whose seat was ultimately denied him by the Senate because of campaign violations. Just one month after the election, McKinley died of prostate cancer in Martinsville, Indiana. He was seventy years old.
McKinley won the United States Senate Primary on September 15, 1920, by a mere 11,400 votes over Frank Smith of Dwight. This election was the first national election in which women could vote after the ratification of the 19th amendment, and women are credited with delivering the election to McKinley.
Smith defeated McKinley in a brutal campaign years later after amassing a staggering $400,000 in campaign contributions, primarily from Chicago Traction owner Samuel Insull. However, the United States Senate refused to seat Smith over questions about his campaign. He was never seated in the Senate and resigned in 1928.