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When George Willoughby Kelly returns from the war to his hometown of Westhaven, everyone, including his aunt Hattie and cousin Eustace, welcomes him with open arms. As he makes his way to reclaim his job at Martin's hardware, however, he is accidentally knocked out in a political fight. When the police come to arrest him, his boss, Benjamin Martin, vouches for him, causing the crowd to view him as an innocent veteran victimized by the town's unsavory political problems. Also in the crowd is Willy Trimble, the assistant to "Honest" John Rooney, the crooked politico behind the town's troubles. The next day, after George is hailed in the press as a hero, Trimble, looking for a patsy whom they can get elected and then use to do their bidding, suggests to Rooney that they nominate George for alderman and dub him "George Washington Kelly", in honor of the George Washington biography that George was carrying with him when he was hit. Rooney visits George at home, but is unable to to convince him to run. Martin tells George that Rooney will ruin both of them if he does not run, so George visits Rooney's office, where he hears attractive secretary Mary Burton announce to the press that he has already accepted the nomination. When George storms out, Rooney tells Mary he will give her a bonus if she convinces George to run. The next night, she takes him to a nightclub, and he agrees to run, if only to see her. Over the next few weeks, Rooney subjects him to absurd propaganda demonstrations, and when he hears that George's opponent, Frank Aldrich, supports the metric system, he forces George to denounce him as un-American. At the Downtown Fish and Chowder Club Picnic, however, George manages to disconcert Rooney and delay his speech in order to kiss Mary in the woods. Days later in Rooney's office, Trimble tells Rooney and Mary that he has paid Aldrich's spokesman, J. B. Norton, to slander George's dead parents in order to make Aldrich look heartless. Furious, George drags Norton, who has confessed to him, to the office. When he then witnesses Rooney paying Mary for convincing him to run, he quits the campaign and storms out. That afternoon, Rooney brings the rally to George's house to force him to speak, and after Mary encourages him to speak the truth, George tells the voters that Rooney is crooked and, therefore, everyone should vote for Aldrich. The next day, Mary hears Rooney plan to have George committed to the insane asylum, and when she runs to warn him, Aunt Hattie lends her a gun to force him to accompany her. George finally realizes Mary's sacrifices and forgives her, after which their car breaks down and they are forced to walk back to town to hide out at Aldrich's. Aldrich welcomes them, and on election night, the constituents elect George, as they are now convinced that he is honest. After Aldrich congratulates him, Rooney comes over to try to intimidate George into working for him, but Mary threatens to expose all the dirt she has learned about him over the years, and he reluctantly backs down, shaking George's hand before he leaves.