By Louise Leigh & Fred Davis
The history of the California Republican Assembly was compiled by CRA Historian Louise Leigh and former CRA News Editor Fred Davis. First published as part of a souvenir book for the 50th CRA State Convention in 1983, the history has been updated several times with contributions from various CRA members and was most recently published as a souvenir program for CRA’s 65th Anniversary Convention in April of 2000.
The stock market came crashing down – the prelude to long bread lines and apples sold on the street corners of New York City. The hordes of unemployed were desperate. It was 1929 in America.
By the presidential election year of 1932, American voters were ready for a change. The landslide election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought to fruition all the dire predictions of the hardcore Republican Party. The bureaucracy grew – the NPA, CCC, WPA, Social Security, and more – as America became socialized as never before.
In Los Angeles, two men were destined to meet and change the political history of the state of California.
Ed Shattuck, a Republican activist, was a candidate for Congress in the 15th Congressional District in L.A. in 1932. During his campaign, his path crossed that of Robert Craig, who was managing the campaign of one of his opponents, A. Ronald Button.
When an angry Shattuck phoned to protest the uprooted signs that were dumped on his front lawn, he spoke with Craig. It was during this conversation that they found they had similar views on how to revitalize and reorganize the Republican Party in California.
They met after the November election at the Paris Inn Restaurant in Los Angeles. With notes recorded on a legal yellow lined pad, the stirrings of what would become the California Republican Assembly were conceived, formulated, and discussed.
The experienced political background of these two men forged the foundation upon which the CRA was created.
The CRA’s first statewide organizational meeting was held in San Jose on February 11, 1934. Paul Mason of San Francisco was elected temporary chairman. On March 12, 1934 at a meeting in Fresno, Sherrill Halbert became CRA’s first President.
The following year, on July 12, 1935, the CRA was incorporated and set on a path to make political history.
In December 1932, LeRoy Owens and Durand House, both active Republican leaders, met with Craig and Shattuck in the basement of the Spring Arcade in Los Angeles and were sold on the idea of CRA.
These activists decided to build a statewide precinct organization. With the financial aid of a few bankers and financiers from Pasadena, Robert Craig became the first hired Executive Secretary of CRA and worked in that capacity until 1938. In 1934, his benefactors presented him with a Ford convertible to continue his good works. He traveled up and down the state of California uniting the divided factions of the Republican Party.
The first ten years, 1933 to 1943, were formative years. Only men forty-five years or younger were admitted to CRA membership. There were separate youth, senior and women’s groups, but they were not admitted to the mainstream of CRA politics.
Roosevelt was re-elected during this period and America entered World War II in 1941. Nationally, the Republican Party was ineffective. In California, however, Republican Frank Merriam was elected Governor in 1934. He was defeated by Culbert Olson in 1938. On March 7, 1941, in San Jose, the CRA endorsed Attorney General Earl Warren for Governor and he was elected in 1942.
In 1940, the CRA sponsored a rally at the Hollywood Bowl where presidential candidate Tom Dewey spoke before 18,000 people. Republican hopes were high, but again Roosevelt was elected. However, the CRA was beginning to make its mark in politics.
By June of 1935, the CRA was organized in 47 of the 58 counties in the state of California and had over 8,000 members. The CRA was making political history.
The leaders and big money donors of the Republican Party of California had decided to attempt to bring about the nomination of Former President Herbert Hoover again in 1936. They decided to use the CRA as the vehicle for his first public appearance since his defeat in 1932.
CRA organized a “Western Conference” of eleven western states who were invited and attended the conference held in Oakland in 1935. Former President Hoover spoke publicly.
Factions within the CRA were divided between Governor Frank Merriam, President Hoover, and Earl Warren. In addition, newspaper king William Randolph Hearst was a strong supporter of Alf Landon of Kansas and, in a move to gain support for Landon, Ed Shattuck was invited as a houseguest for one week at the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
Despite the “Western Conference” and Hearst’s overtures, the California Delegation was headed by Earl Warren and was “uninstructed.” President Hoover had no delegates and Alf Landon became the nominee of the Republican Party. The CRA was split between Alf Landon and Governor Frank Merriam of California. At their convention in Visalia on Feb. 29, 1936, the CRA agreed to an uninstructed delegation to the National Convention.
In Santa Cruz, February 13, 1939, the 6th CRA Convention elected Worth Brown president. A committee of 15 from CRA was appointed to meet with former President Hoover to oppose the “New Deal,” to write a Republican Platform, and to select a presidential candidate for 1940. They decided on an uninstructed delegation, to invite presidential candidates to California, and that CRA would sponsor their visits. The Los Angeles County Republican Assembly wrote the formula for selecting the California Delegation and Alternates to the Republican National Convention. The formula was adopted on December 1, 1939 at a meeting of official representatives from all Republican statewide organizations. California had 44 delegates to the National Republican Convention. The year was 1939. Germany’s Hitler invaded Poland.
The 7th CRA Convention held in Los Angeles in 1940 elected William D. Campbell president. It was a presidential election year, and Republican hopes were high. Under the auspices of CRA, presidential candidate Thomas Dewey spoke against the “New Deal” at the Hollywood Bowl to 18,000 spectators. Since the California Delegation was uninstructed, the CRA did not pre-primary endorse the presidential candidate.
At this time, no statewide candidate could be endorsed by CRA, only by County Republican Assemblies. By 1940, the CRA had its largest membership since its inception – 12,000 members.
On March 7, 1941, in San Jose, the CRA Convention elected William F. Reichel president. A dispute arose over a resolution to endorse Wendell Wilkie as National Party Leader. President Reichel also appointed a committee of twenty-nine to recommend candidates for statewide offices, which would not be divisive for CRA. The committee recommended then-Attorney General Earl Warren for Governor. In December 1941, “The Axis,” Germany, Italy, and Japan, declared war on America.
In April 1942 in Santa Barbara, Carlyle Lynton was elected president of CRA at the 9th convention. Endorsements were made for Earl Warren, Governor; Riley, Controller; and Johnson, Treasurer. The non-endorsed candidates declared the CRA endorsement unfair, un-American, and un-Republican arguing that CRA did not represent the Republican Party as a whole in California. The opposition was wrong. All CRA pre-primary endorsed candidates were elected but one. The CRA decided on “no endorsement” for the office of Attorney General, and he lost.
In its first ten years, the CRA truly revolutionized the political history of California. Their goal had been to change the Republican image and to elect Republicans to California state offices. However, successful in California for this first decade, they were plagued with “New Deal Roosevelt” whom they were unable to unseat. Also, America was now in the middle of World War II.
It was the year 1942. World War II raged on and President Roosevelt was in his third term. The Republican Party was groping to find new leadership in order to regain a foothold in national politics. In contrast to the National Republican Party, California politics flourished. The California Republican Assembly had become a formidable political force.
By their second decade of existence, they had indeed accomplished all their original goals. They controlled the Central Committee, campaign funds, the precinct organization, and without a CRA endorsement, no Republican candidate could hope to get elected.
At that time, the Governor of California was Earl Warren, a Republican, as was Lt. Governor Fred Houser.
William C. Troyer was the tenth CRA president and was elected in 1943, a non-election year. The most important event during that year was that CRA’s “Fact Finding Committee” recommended Governor Earl Warren head the California Delegation to the National Republican Convention in 1944. He went as a “Favorite Son” candidate to avoid divisiveness.
In order to see the historic role members of CRA played at the Republican Convention of 1952, it is necessary to go back to the year 1946. Robert Fenton Craig (paid Executive Secretary of CRA) met with members of the Pasadena Republican Assembly to speak with a potential congressional candidate. That candidate was Richard Nixon, accompanied by his wife Pat. The CRA subsequently endorsed Nixon who was elected to Congress in 1946 and again in 1948. In 1950, the CRA endorsed Nixon for U.S. Senate and he was elected.
At the Republican Convention of 1952, Earl Warren refused the vice presidential offer by Eisenhower because of his unpleasant experience four years previously. U.S. Senator Knowland, after much agonizing, also refused the offer.
The following excerpts from a letter written by CRA Past President Markell Baer (1951-52) to Past President Dick Krugh (1973-74) dated November 8, 1975, best explain the events which took place at the 1952 Republican Convention:
“Then, in 1952, Warren was again a potential candidate for the Presidency. I had the privilege of being on the train with him en route to the Chicago Convention. He reminded me of his experiences with Dewey and made it definite he would not again play second-figure as V.P. or with someone else.
“At that convention, I was appointed the Chief Page for California, which gave me the privilege of attending the many committee meetings, etc. Then, I was asked to serve as aide to Senator Knowland who was our floor leader…
“At the convention, I was finally assigned in charge of the special telephone from the Convention to Warren’s and Eisenhower’s headquarters. The night when Eisenhower was nominated, I first got a call for Earl Warren, and learned Earl had been offered the Vice Presidency nomination and had promptly refused…
“With Earl’s emphatic refusal to Eisenhower, I was told to get Senator Knowland. I did so, and he came to the office where I was and with his father walked up and down, arm in arm, discussing the matter. The father kept saying Bill would be pushed aside and wreck his career, and besides the father almost daily telephoned him regarding affairs at the Tribune (as I personally know) and would not be able to do so with Bill running around as vice president. Meanwhile, the father’s wife sat with me and cried over and over, that Bill should not give in, and I tried to console her. Well, Bill finally did refuse. And that was it.
“Being told to return to the said phone the next morning, I did so, and soon came a call to get Nixon. I called in the pages and was told he was at the Stockyard Inn and so reported. Then someone in Eisenhower’s headquarters phoned me that I had given misinformation, that history was at stake, and it was serious, and I must produce Nixon at once, or else!
“Well I left my post, and personally hurried to the said Inn. The clerk at first wouldn’t talk to me, said he did not know Nixon and he was not registered. However, I did learn that Murray Chotiner was in the hotel and I know Nixon was running around with Chotiner. So I managed to get up to Chotiner’s apartment and in it and found Dick lying on a bed, unshaven, still in his clothes (he had been up much of the night) and looking upset. I told him to get out, get dressed up and get to Eisenhower’s at once.
“Soon after returning to my telephone post, he appeared, in better shape, and again I explained all that had happened. We called a taxi and about an hour later, there he was on the platform with Eisenhower, waving to the crowd of delegates, and was nominated. Since then, he has at times talked to me of this affair and laughed about it.”
Past President, 1949-1950
One wonders how American history would read had Mr. Baer not been able to locate Nixon at that crucial time. The Murray Chotiner mentioned in the letter was CRA president in 1944-45. He was Richard Nixon’s political confidante and, later, White House Aide. Mr. Chotiner met with an auto accident and died a week later of an embolism on January 30, 1974. He had been with Nixon for three decades.
In retrospect, Earl Warren was the darling of CRA. In 1941, he was acting Attorney General of California and CRA endorsed him for Governor. However, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, with his controversial decisions over the years, turned the admiration of CRA members to consternation. By (circa) 1962, CRA members were circulating petitions urging the impeachment of Earl Warren.
In 1948, CRA revised its bylaws empowering Regional Directors to charter Assembly units who were too far away from county organizations – a great change in the CRA structure.
In 1950, the CRA Lobbying Committee recommended that Election Codes be amended to require reporting of campaign contributions by persons or organizations interested in influencing legislation.
The CRA began its third decade in a state of exuberance. World War II hero General Dwight Eisenhower became the first Republican president in 20 years. Richard Nixon of California was elected Vice President of the United States.
When Nixon took his oath of office as Vice President, he resigned as U.S. Senator. Governor Earl Warren appointed State Controller Thomas Kuchel to the U.S. Senate. Governor Earl Warren was succeeded by Goodwin Knight as California Governor in 1954. Those were good Republican years.
The 20th CRA Convention, held in Los Angeles on March 6, 1953, was a most “enthusiastic victory” meeting. Though it was an off election year, the jubilation of the 1952 Republican victories (both national and state) persisted.
In 1953, then-Vice President Nixon stated, “Volunteer organizations are the life blood of a political party. That is why all Republicans in California should give their wholehearted support to the CRA, which is the outstanding Republican organization in the state.”
Further, a telegram dated December 18, 1953, addressed to Worth Brown (CRA President 1939-40) and signed by Hal Ramser (CRA President 1954-55) stated: “We are expected to be at the Governor’s office (Knight) Sacramento for lunch on Wednesday, February 3, to discuss better liaison between that office and CRA. Please confirm at once and make effort to be there. Hal Ramser.”
Such was the importance of CRA in 1953.
The 22nd CRA Convention in March of 1955 took place in Pasadena. CRA pledged to support the re-election of the “Ike & Dick” ticket becoming one of the first volunteer organizations to back their nomination at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
Howard Jarvis was elected President of the Los Angeles County Republican Assembly in 1960 and later went on to author the historic property tax-cutting initiative Prop. 13.
In 1956, the CRA had a membership of over 11,000.
At the Republican National Convention in San Francisco in 1956, the CRA presented 100 plaques to outstanding Republicans. Honored were President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, Republican governors, and others. CRA was a prestigious and powerful organization.
“Ike & Dick” were re-elected on November 6, 1956, by an even greater margin than in 1952.
In 1957, U.S. Senator William Knowland addressed a CRA Board meeting at the La Fayette Hotel in Long Beach where he was cheered by 1,100 members. Robert Fenton Craig, then CRA President, announced that Senator Knowland would not run for Governor of California. He lauded Senator Knowland for his contribution to the formation of CRA in 1933. “Today the CRA has over 116 units in California,” he stated.
Despite President Craig’s announcement, the 1958 Fact Finding Committee at the CRA Convention in San Jose endorsed Goodwin Knight for U.S. Senate; William Knowland for Governor; and Assemblyman Casper Weinberger from San Francisco for Attorney General. All were defeated in the November election of 1958 and Pat Brown, Sr. was elected Governor of California.
In 1959, when Gardiner Johnson was CRA President, the Fact Finding Committee was instructed not to deliberate on the endorsement of Richard Nixon for President of the United States. President Johnson declared that Nixon was an “outstanding and unusually qualified candidate for the presidency” and instructed the Resolutions Committee to report as such. It was done at the CRA Convention in Coronado in February 1959.
In 1960, the four Nixon-Kennedy TV debates were a “first” in presidential campaigning. Viewers’ complaints that Nixon looked haggard and drawn during the first debate made the use of make-up on television an issue in the campaign. Nixon’s consent to the debates gave John Kennedy the wider audience he needed. The debates were the biggest single factor in Nixon’s defeat and Kennedy admitted he would not have won without them. JFK was elected by only 118,263 more votes than Nixon in November 1960.
In September of 1961, there were four possible Republican gubernatorial candidates: Goodwin Knight, Lt. Governor Harold J. Powers, Assemblyman Joe Shell, and Richard Nixon.
At the CRA Board meeting in Santa Maria on December 3, 1961, over 500 members came to hear Richard Nixon as a California gubernatorial candidate.
In November of 1962, Nixon was defeated by Edmund G. Brown who was re-elected to his second term as governor of California.
From 1952 to 1962, the CRA was still a political force with which California politicians had to deal, and unwise to ignore.
The CRA bore its greatest philosophical and structural changes during the decade from 1962 to 1972. The founders and builders of CRA were dedicated, astute, and certainly most effective. However, their original vision of a United States Republican Assembly had eluded them. When the bylaw change was adopted to require paid memberships to units, some were outraged and felt betrayed. Dr. Robert Craig, one of the founders, feels to this day that this single bylaw change crippled the whole original concept of what CRA should have accomplished. Nevertheless, they had accomplished the gargantuan task of a statewide effective volunteer organization.
CRA’s founding fathers were of a liberal philosophy, and therefore, CRA was liberal, as were the men they elected to public office.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Roosevelt and World War II made the national political scene impenetrable for 20 years. By contrast, in California, the CRA endorsed and elected candidates and changed the state’s political history as no other volunteer organization has done before or since.
Circa 1955, there were people within the ranks of CRA whose philosophy was diametrically opposed to that of CRA’s founders. From “militant forward-thinking liberal” in 1962, CRA became “moderate” by 1963 and “conservative” by 1972.
Fred Hall was elected President of CRA in 1962 and it was the beginning of the end of the domination of the liberal element in CRA.
The 1963 CRA Convention was the most bitterly fought convention ever between the liberal and conservative factions within the CRA. Labor union member William Nelligan won over Harry Waddell, who was supported by the conservatives and John Birch Society members. The rift was so great that amid shouts of “foul play and stuffing ballot boxes,” the Waddell group staged a walkout. They later organized the United Republicans of California and never returned to CRA again. Bill Nelligan was the last of the liberal presidents of CRA, but the liberal vs. conservative battle had only just begun.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States.
CRA was said to have a membership of 14,000 that year.
The 1964 CRA Convention was a philosophical battle with CRA members split in their support of Nelson Rockefeller or Barry Goldwater for President. It became the most tumultuous, chaotic, and divisive convention ever to be staged by members of CRA.
President Nelligan, founding father Ed Shattuck, past president A. Ronald Button, and past president Harvey Mydland led the Rockefeller forces. Past president Gardiner Johnson, Assemblyman Jack Schall, Dick Darling, and Nolan Frizzelle led the Goldwater forces. Amid manipulation and stalling tactics, the hour became late. Many of the delegates had to catch planes and left. There had been twelve hours of wrangling, and by 9:30 p.m. Assemblyman Schall asked for a ruling by the chair on the two-third rule for endorsement. The ruling was in his favor. It was then that the Rockefeller forces walked out and Goldwater was endorsed by the CRA in the wee hours of the morning.
The struggle between right and left within CRA continued. The John Birch Society, a political organization, was recruiting members nationwide. Its adversaries depicted it as an organization bent on a “Republican Party takeover,” calling its members “the lunatic fringe” and “extremists.” It was said that five members of the CRA Executive Board were members of the society at that time.
In 1964, Nolan Frizzelle was elected the first of the conservative presidents of CRA. Barry Goldwater was nominated at the 1964 National Republican Convention in San Francisco, but the conservative forces nationally were not robust enough to elect him president. In November 1964, Lyndon Johnson was elected president.
Cyril Stevenson was elected president of CRA in 1965.
In 1966, the CRA delegates endorsed Ronald Reagan for governor. He defeated Governor Edmund G. Brown who was seeking a third term. In November of 1966, all the Republican candidates on the Reagan team won except the candidate for controller.
In 1968, the CRA Convention endorsed Richard Nixon for president and Max Rafferty for U.S. Senate over incumbent U.S. Senator Tom Kuchel.
Kuchel lost in the June primary election to Max Rafferty, and Rafferty lost to Alan Cranston, a Democrat, in the November election. The Nixon-Agnew ticket defeated Democrat presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey.
July 21, 1969, was the date of the incredible “Walk on the Moon.” It was also an incredible time for the Republican Party having both a Republican president and governor.
In 1970, the CRA was rocked by the incredulous fact that the CRA treasury had been looted. Paul Casattas, first elected CRA treasurer in 1969, had been re-elected to the post in 1970 when Dave Gater was elected CRA president.
Dissent and friction in the Los Angeles County Republican Assembly added to CRA’s chaos that year. L.A. County, the largest in the state, had a stronghold of over 2,000 CRA members. The animosity and power struggle was bitter and long. It finally culminated at the CRA convention in 1971. The 43rd District RA, the Griffith Park Hills RA, the 41st District RA, and the Glendale RA were the successful accusers.
With the chartering power revoked after 37 years by the state organization and the ensuing chaos, the 2,000 memberships of 1971 dwindled to just seventeen units by 1981. Los Angeles County has never recovered from that period. In November of 1982, Bradley won in Los Angeles County with 51.46% over Deukmejian and Brown with 52.46% over Pete Wilson.
There was an interesting Resolution read from the floor at the March 20, 1971 CRA Convention. Citing Nixon’s war in Vietnam, cuts in defense spending, expansion of Social Security, and other ills, it was “resolved that the CRA will not support Nixon for President in 1972 unless he changes his present actions by October 1, 1971.” The resolution was not adopted by CRA at that convention.
The world was shifting, and CRA shifted its political philosophy and its structure during the decade 1962 to 1972 from moderate to conservative.
In November of 1972, Nixon and Agnew were re-elected in a landslide election.
The decade encompassing 1972 to 1982 was a time of despair (Watergate) and presidential euphoria (Reagan) for CRA.
In 1972, Reagan was Governor of California and Nixon was President of the United States. The CRA Convention delegates elected Dr. Donovan Pretzer president of CRA that year. Dr. Pretzer decided that the CRA archives should be stored in a permanent place for posterity.
He approached the University of California at Los Angeles where the archives were accepted and are now stored permanently.
By 1972, conservative elements within the Republican Party were becoming more vocal in their opposition to President Nixon’s policies.
The Vietnam War ends. Amnesty to those who had fled the country to avoid serving in Vietnam became a national issue and a furious debate.
On May 30, 1973, Tom Bradley defeated Sam Yorty and became Mayor of Los Angeles.
CRA passed a resolution that year urging acceptance of the Panama Canal zone as our 51st state. At the 1973 CRA convention, the bylaws were changed from Congressional District Directors to Assembly District Directors for greater grass roots involvement.
After Vice President Spiro Agnew was accused by the press of having accepted gratuities while he was Governor of Maryland, he was forced to resign October 10, 1973. President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford Vice President.
Then came the Watergate accusations which immobilized the government and shocked the nation. Republicans were confused and hoped for a plausible explanation.
Let us try to persuade Congress to either impeach the President or ‘GET OFF HIS BACK’ as some have put it. We are glad to see Senator Barry Goldwater and Senator Hugh Scott begin to take the offensive in support of the President. There are too many pressing and vital issues facing our country for Congress to waste all its time on Watergate. Let us demand that they get on with the important business of running our great country.
Los Angeles Times
March 2, 1974
Watergate Charges Rage, 6 Ex-Nixon Aides Indicted
On March 18, 1974, the Watergate scandal infiltrated California. Special Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski probed into the alleged offer by International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation to help finance the 1972 Republican National Convention and accused Lt. Governor Ed Reineke of improprieties. By October 2, 1974, Lt. Governor Reineke was forced to resign and Governor Reagan appointed John Harmer as Lt. Governor.
The uncertainty of Watergate came to an end on August 10, 1974. President Nixon resigned as President of the United States (a first in American history) and Gerald Ford was sworn in as President. His statement to America: “The nightmare is over.”
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported the CRA had 5,600 members in 1974.
On September 9, 1974, President Ford granted President Nixon an absolute pardon to avoid trials and further sensationalism. He then appointed Nelson Rockefeller to the Vice Presidency of the United States.
In November of 1974, Jerry Brown defeated Republican Houston Flournoy to become governor of California.
CRA voted against the Equal Rights Amendment for women in 1975. At that same CRA Board meeting, a resolution was passed supporting an open primary and national convention. Vice Chairman of the Republican State Central Committee Mike Montgomery stated, “We cannot tolerate having a state committee involved in a Reagan-Ford fight. Our responsibility as state officers is to ensure all candidates receive fair and impartial treatment.”
At the Republican National Convention, President Gerald Ford became the Republican Nominee by a small majority over Ronald Reagan. On November 3, 1976, President Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter. Republican losses were heavy in the election. Watergate had taken its toll.
CRA’s founding fathers must have experienced the shock of a lifetime when on April 17, 1977, the first woman in CRA history was elected president of the California Republican Assembly, Ms. Mike Evans. She sought a second term in 1978, contrary to a CRA unwritten law, and was defeated in her bid. Dennis Catron was elected president that year.
Delegates of the 1977 CRA convention passed a resolution urging Congress to continue ownership and control of the Panama Canal. “It is vital to the defense of the free world,” it said.
In May of 1978, the CRA endorsed Ed Davis for Governor over Evelle Younger, Mike Antonovich for Lt. Governor over Mike Curb, and George Deukmejian for Attorney General. In November, all Republicans lost their bids for state office except Deukmejian and Curb.
At CRA’s March Convention in Los Angeles, members heard two candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination and voted on proposed changes to CRA bylaws.
The two presidential candidates? Ronald Reagan and Phillip Crane.
On April 26, 1980, the American public learned that an attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran had failed. Americans were killed, helicopters destroyed, and it became an American fiasco. Inflation climbed and Carter’s popularity fell to an all time low.
The Republican debates between Baker, Dole, Crane, Connelly, Reagan, and Bush were exciting.
In California, John Schmitz and Pete McCloskey filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court to invalidate the California “winner take all” election system. They were not successful.
On April 11-13, 1980, in Santa Clara, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was guest speaker and was endorsed by CRA. Mike Curb, Lt. Governor, was the luncheon speaker, and Steve Frank of Los Angeles was elected CRA president that year.
The California Delegation to the Republican National Convention, July 12-18, 1980 in Detroit, Michigan, was like a CRA homecoming. CRA Past President Dr. Tirso Del Junco was a convention speaker. Past Presidents Mike Evans, Dick Darling, Frank Adams, and Truman Campbell attended, to name only a few. Ronald Reagan became the Republican nominee.
In November, the Press called the election “too close to call,” but never was election polling more discredited. On November 6, 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected by a landslide.
When he was sworn in as President of the United States, the American hostages were freed in Iran. Bells tolled in Washington D.C. and yellow ribbons were visible all over America. Hopes were high.
At the April 1981 CRA Convention in Irvine, the second woman in CRA history was elected president, Jean Orr.
In March of 1982, CRA endorsed Bob Dornan for U.S. Senate and, for the third time, a woman was elected President of CRA, Coanne Cubete.
Attorney General George Deukmejian won the Republican nomination for Governor and Pete Wilson won the U.S. Senate nomination.
Deukmejian was elected Governor on November 2, 1982, defeating Tom Bradley. Pete Wilson won the U.S. Senate seat over Jerry Brown. No other Republicans were elected to state offices. Republican losses nationwide were attributed to high rates of unemployment.
In 1983, the CRA embarked on its 50th anniversary. Governor George Deukmejian was the guest of honor.
In 1983, Bob Thierry was elected CRA president in L.A. during a non-election year. The November 1983 issue of CRA News had a front-page photo of past president Mike Evans with the notation, “Mighty Mike Evans is the Godmother of the Texas Republican Assembly.” When the Texas RA held their first reception, there were more than 1,000 members in attendance. Thus, the vision of CRA founders Ed Shattuck and Robert Fenton Craig was becoming reality.
The Republican National Convention was held in Dallas, Texas August 20-23 and Ronald Reagan was nominated for a second term.
Joe Gilmaker became CRA president at the April convention in 1984. He was the first CRA president to appoint a computer committee. CRA entered the computer age.
Governor Deukmejian kept his campaign promise to get a fair reapportionment. Over 800,000 signatures were gathered to put his initiative on the ballot to establish a non-partisan commission of former judges to draw the reapportionment lines to prevent the blatant gerrymandering by the Democrats.
At the 52nd CRA convention in January 1985, Barbara Rathbun was elected CRA president.
Governor Deukmejian’s initiative for fair reapportionment was defeated by voters fearful of “involving judges in politics,” it was said. At the same time, Republicans out registered Democrats and there were 6.8 million Democrats to 4.7 million Republicans.
Dr. Ralph Waugh became the new CRA president in 1986-87. On September 13, 1986, a special CRA convention met in Santa Clara for the express purpose of taking a position on California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird. She had been appointed by then-Governor Jerry Brown, known as “Governor Moonbeam.” The ballot proposition to remove Rose Bird was referred to as “cleaning up the Bird mess.”
The year 1987 was the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and the CRA dedicated its March convention in Irvine to the celebration. CRA received congratulatory letters from Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush, George Deukmejian, and others, but the one most treasured by CRA was the Ronald Reagan letter.
The River City RA in Northern California had a membership of over 300 members in 1984. Col. Bob Byerly became the new CRA president in 1987. He was a retired military officer and businessman from Fairfield, CA.
In 1988, the following year, Dr. Everet Roden was elected president of CRA. It was a presidential election year. George Bush was elected president and Dan Quayle vice president.
At the CRA convention in 1989, William E. Hoge became CRA president and was later elected an Assemblyman from the Pasadena area.
Rick Staats was elected CRA President in 1990. At the pre-primary endorsing convention, CRA voted a “no confidence” for the candidacy of Pete Wilson for U.S. Senate because of his pro-abortion stance. Layne Allred was hired by CRA to become the field coordinator and to recruit support for CRA endorsed candidates.
During May 3-5, 1991, at the CRA 58th Convention in Sacramento, the featured speakers were Lt. Col. Oliver North, Pat Robertson, Senator John Ashcroft, Bruce Herschensohn, and Attorney General Dan Lungren.
Mike Schroeder, an attorney from Orange County, was elected CRA president, 1991-93. He launched an ambitious fundraising drive attempting to raise $1,000 from 35 CRA members.
In August of 1991, plans were made to hold a meeting in Houston, Texas with current members from Vermont, Illinois, and Texas to propose the expansion of CRA to other states.
The CRA bylaws were changed in 1991 to allow CRA presidents to serve two years instead of the traditional one-year term. However, the rotation of CRA presidents from north to south was retained. The first CRA president to serve the two-year term was Mike Schroeder. Later, President Schroeder was elected Chairman of the California Republican Party.
Nineteen ninety-two was a presidential election year, as well as an election year for one of California’s two U.S. Senate seats. Governor Pete Wilson was able to ensure a fair reapportionment due to his non-compromising position, and the CRA commended him for it.
The CRA endorsing convention for U.S. president and other positions was held in Orange County on April 3-5. Bill Bennett, author and Ronald Reagan’s Drug Czar, was a guest speaker as was Dick Cheney. President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle were defeated by Bill Clinton.
Greg Hardcastle was elected CRA president, 1993-95. The next CRA endorsing convention was held in April 1994 in Sacramento to endorse for U.S. Senate and all California Constitutional officials. Pete Wilson was re-elected Governor and three other Republicans won statewide office: Chuck Quackenbush (Insurance Commissioner), Matt Fong (Treasurer), and Bill Jones (Secretary of State).
In 1994, Republicans won control of Congress for the first time in decades.
Jon Fleischman was elected CRA president, 1995-97. He was later to become the Executive Director of the California Republican Party.
Governor Pete Wilson became the California state chairman for the Bob Dole campaign for president. As the Dole campaign faltered in California, CRA endorsed Pat Buchanan for president. Candidate Dole selected Jack Kemp as his vice presidential running mate, but nothing seemed to give the campaign the momentum needed to win. The Clinton-Gore ticket was re-elected.
New CRA President John Courtney was elected in April in Ontario for the 1997-99 term. Outgoing CRA President Jon Fleischman presented the Ronald Reagan Freedom Fighter Award to convention speakers Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri, Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Dr. Pat Robertson, Steve Forbes, and Governor George Bush, Jr. of Texas.
By 1997, the National Federation of Republican Assemblies had expanded to include the Virginia RA, Minnesota RA, Nevada RA, and Colorado RA. By the end of 1997, 40 states expected to belong to the NFRA. Past CRA President Steve Frank became president of NFRA.
In February of 1997 at the California Republican Party Convention, CRA members were predominately elected. Many liberal and moderate Republicans present called it a “CRA takeover.”
The CRA Convention, held in Ontario, overwhelmingly endorsed the “English for the Children” and the “Parental Consent” initiatives being prepared for the 1998 election. In July of 1997, the CRA had one of its most enjoyable meetings in the beautiful surroundings of Mammoth. Most members brought their families.
1998 was an election year for California legislators and congress. The CRA endorsed Attorney General Dan Lungren for Governor, Senator Richard Mountjoy for Lt. Governor, and Darrell Issa for U.S. Senate. All lost their elections. Democrat Gray Davis was elected Governor.
At the April 1999 CRA convention, presidential candidates courted the CRA hoping to receive its endorsement. Those who spoke were Senator Bob Smith, Steve Forbes, Pat Buchanan, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes (George Bush, Jr. and Elizabeth Dole were the only candidates not present). Sergio Picchio was elected CRA president for 1999-2001 by acclamation.
The CRA endorsing convention for president took place on November 12-14, 1999 in Ontario. The CRA endorsed Gary Bauer for president.
The National Federation of Republican Assemblies held its first-ever presidential endorsing convention in April of 1999 in Kansas City, Missouri. Steve Forbes, though not receiving the 2/3 vote required for endorsement, came close and was clearly the favorite.
On October 4, 1999, Governor Davis signed into law a bill authorizing production of the “Ronald Regan license plate” as a tribute to the former president.
In April of 2000, CRA celebrated its 65th Anniversary from its 1935 date of incorporation. The convention took place in Napa, the second greatest tourist attraction in California. Assemblyman Tony Strickland, former California Supreme Court Justice William Clark, and John Gizzi, political editor for Human Events, were the speakers.
With CRA’s excellent leadership in the political arena, the conservative movement, which has expanded across America, bodes a bright future for CRA and the NFRA.