Introduction to the History of the
California Republican Assembly

by Ron Culver, CRA Information / Technologies Committee Chairman

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Past CRA Presidents

  01-03 D. Mountjoy
  99-01 S. Picchio
  97-99 J.Courtney
  95-97 J.Fleischman
  93-95 G.Hardcastle
  91-93 M.Schroeder
  90-91 R.Staats
  89-90 W.Hoge
  88-89 Dr. E.Roden
  87-88 B.Byerley
  86-87 R.Waugh DDS
  85-86 B.Rathbun
  84-85 J.Gilmaker
  83-84 B.Theirry
  82-83 C.Cubete
  81-82 J.M.Orr
  80-81 Steve Frank
  79-80 M.Carrington
  78-79 D.Catron
  77-78 Mrs.Mike Evans
  76-77 W.R.Cutting
  75-76 T.Campbell
  74-75 D.Meyer
  73-74 D.Krugh
  72-73 D.Pretzer
  71-72 H.Koford
  70-71 D.Gator
  69-70 J.Kraemer
  68-69 T.DelJunco
  67-68 F.Adams
  66-67 D.Darling
  65-66 C.Stevenson Jr.
  64-65 N.Frizzelle, OD
  63-64 B.Nelligan
  62-63 F.Hall
  61-62 R.Lindsey
  60-61 H.Mydland
  59-60 G.Johnson
  58-59 J.Phillips
  57-58 G.Millias
  56-57 R.F.Craig
  55-56 R.Power
  54-55 H.Ramser
  53-54 A.Bower
  52-53 A.R.Button
  51-52 M.Baer
  50-51 H.McCall
  49-50 E.West
  48-49 G.Richmond
  47-48 A.Strehlow
  46-47 G.R.Harrison
  45-46 A.Carmichael
  44-45 M.Chotiner
  43-44 W.Troyer
  42-43 C.Lynton
  41-42 W.Reichel
  40-41 W.Campbell
  39-40 W.Brown
  38-39 M.Faries
  38     G.Newell
  37-38 B.Barkell
  36-37 E.Shattuck
  34-35 S.Halbert
      The political history of California has been controversial, turbulent and highly influential in national politics from the very beginning, and the California Republican Assembly (CRA) has had a significant impact on history for over 60 years. Today, the CRA is a conservative political organization, but it was not always so. The study provided here, and by long time historians and CRA members Louise Leigh and Fred Davis, reveals a long, varied and interesting history of CRA.

To understand how, and why the California Republican Assembly was founded it is helpful to understand key events of California political history that led not only to the founding of the CRA, but also shaped the political process of an entire nation. It is also helpful to keep in mind that over the years the ebb and flow of political doctrine has seen a complete ideological roll between the two leading national political parties.

In the early 1900's and again in the '30's the Republican party in California was dominated by "progressives" and tended to lean toward what today would be called moderate to liberal ideology. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected during the time period by a huge majority, socialism was beginning its heyday and Republicanism, led by Rockerfeller insiders, moved leftward.

During the 1930's another influential organization called the Lincoln-Roosevelt League became part of the political movement in California. It was populated by both Democrats and Republicans, and members of the organization held a majority in both houses of the California legislature. They cooperated in the passage of measures which fundamentally changed the state's electoral process and shifted political power from local and county levels into the hands of the state's office holders.

The 1900's and The Rail Baron's

The political landscape in California underwent radical reformation in the early 1900's, and much of the story of that tempestuous time had to do with railroads and the so called "Big Four Rail Barons." In the late 1800's and early 1900's in California the railroads, particularly the Southern Pacific, became hated giants that ran roughshod over employees and in particular, landowners who were paid little for their farms and land when the railroad wanted to go through their property.

All commerce and travel of comfort ran by rail, but because of the political connections of the railroads and their labor policies, the average citizen of California gladly supported a candidate for governor, Hiram W. Johnson, who promised if he were elected he would, "...kick the Southern Pacific Railroad out of the Republican Party and out of state government."

Johnson's "Reforms"

Hiram Johnson, a Republican, was elected by a landslide. He subsequently enacted, in concert with the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, a host of political reforms which were popular with the majority of voters as he sold the idea that political parties needed "to be weakened."

Several reforms occurred just prior to and during Johnson's term as Governor. The direct primary election, direct election of U.S. senators, and new laws to limit the power of Central Committees were enacted. A cross-filing system allowed candidates to run in the primary elections in either political party, or both. Also enacted were initiative, referendum, recall, and county home rule laws. These laws severely limited the historic purpose of the locally elected Central Committees, and forbad their function of endorsing and opposing candidates. This effectively short-circuited much of process of "government by the people" which the founders created as part of the American republican form of government. Defense of the historic structure by knowledgeable citizens was weak and without leadership support in government, but a record exists of the opposition.

Known for its conservatism, the San Francisco Call referred to the Progressive legislature in power behind Johnson's reforms as the, "Legislature of a Thousand Freaks." Also conservative at the time, the San Francisco Chronicle called the 1913 session of the state legislature, "A Legislature of Progressive Cranks," and said, "...the number of tomfool bills is beyond computation." Conservative Republicans were alarmed by the Progressive movement, and decried their political reforms, and by the early 1920's Progressivism had declined in the Republican Party. But, California was now a "weak party" state, and within a decade the face of the American political process began to change as nearly every state adopted similar measures.

The 1930's - The CRA is Founded

The Great Depression of the 1930's exerted new pressures on the political scene in California, millions were unemployed, strikes and labor problems dominated the scene, and political reform was again a hot topic as Socialist Upton Sinclair revived and extolled the virtues of Progressivism in 1934 and captured the Democrat nomination for governor.

During this period the Democrat Party enjoyed the New Deal landslide, the California congressional delegation was controlled by Democrats, and for the first time in nearly a century Republican power shrank. To counter this loss, a group of young Republicans who were dissatisfied with the now official party conservatism, formed a committee to reassert "progressive" Republicanism. Among the founding members was Earl Warren, who was then District Attorney in Alameda County, and within a short time the CRA began to replace the County Central Committee in its precinct organizational functions across the state, and due to these early efforts of the CRA, Upton Sinclair lost his bid for Governor to Republican, Frank Merriam. Hiram Johnson was elected to the U.S. senate and Republicans re-captured both houses of the California legislature.

Initially there was opposition to pre-primary endorsement of candidates by many within the CRA, but the organization began endorsement in 1935, replacing an historic function of Central Committees outlawed during Hiram Johnson's administration. The endorsement function was looked on with favor by citizens then still familiar with, and still appreciative of the original function of Central Committees, and the practice resulted in most of CRA's endorsed candidates winning office for many years.

Today endorsement by the CRA is avidly sought by all serious Republican candidates, and knowledgeable voters gage a candidates conservatism based on CRA endorsement. Any candidate that doesn't seek the endorsement of the organization probably isn't conservative knowing the effort would be futile... or is politically naive.

"Change" - But at What Cost?

Change... we've heard that one before haven't we? It must be noted that the net effect of the "progressive" changes brought about in the early 1900's resulted in a slow democratization of the political process across the nation, and over time our political process has been severely distorted. The splintered efforts of special interest groups has exploded over the years, apathy among voters has increased, and the public at large has lost faith in a political process that thwarts local control over who rises to the ballot.

The problem is that many Americans today haven't a clue that anything was ever lost, or if they do, they can't describe how the political process today differs essentially from that of America's more successful past. Worse, few understand the steps necessary to restore the fundamental political process made illegal by officeholders.

Is The CRA Truly Conservative Today?

The degree to which history has labeled the CRA as "liberal" or "moderate" has varied over the years. In 1963 a group of Goldwater Republicans split from the CRA and formed the United Republicans of California (UROC), because they felt the CRA was "too liberal." Many former members of the CRA have spoken of its liberal past, however the California Republican League (CRL) was formed by those who found the CRA to be "too conservative."

The reality today? During the last decade the CRA has become the most successful politically of the three Republican organizations in the state, and is conspicuously and proudly conservative in its choice of candidates, its resolutions, and its stated goals and beliefs. As of this writting, CRA Members completely dominate the California Republican Party Board of Directors and the Republican Caucus leadership of both houses of the state legislature.

The CRA is at the forefront of the effort to educate and involve California voters in the restoration not only of conservative influence, but a full restoration of the American political process which includes local oversight, local control of candidate development and a return of political power to the local level.

What About the Progressive reforms of Recall and Initiatives?

Having ranked, in this article, the recall process among the harmful reforms instituted by Hiram Johnson and other progressives of his time, the current use of that provision requires a few comments. If the citizens of California knew, and did their duty as outlined by our founders, and biblical injunction, there would be little need for either recall or initiative statutes. And, if the American political structure had not been perverted by a long series of harmful "reforms," pushed in virtually every instance by socialists every time they begin to loose political clout, there would be far more efficient local oversight over who would rise to the ballot. If the wishes and warnings of our Founders, who had strong aversions to systems of democracy because they historically commit suicide, had been scrupulously followed by this nations people, we would not have allowed direct primary elections to arise. And, lastly, if California legislators served at the pleasure of those who elect them, there would be little need for an initiative process.

In view of these failings, it goes without saying that both recall and initiative are still very popular today... and to a degree somewhat helpful. But, it is also worth noting that recalls attempts have rarely occurred in California history, and only seven of nearly 85 attempts to date have been successful, two recently. As for ballot initiatives, few have been successful improvements to the legal process of the state. Most have been added to the ballot by spineless legislators unable to muster the political courage to legislate, and popular initiatives added to the ballot by the public have typically been tied up in the judicial system for years with little effective long term results. One notable exception is Proposition 13, but its value has been blunted by additional taxation elsewhere, and the benefits have declined markedly as owners move from covered homes.

By What Standard Good Government?

As we look at the political process and history of California, and the contributions made to it by the California Republican Assembly, it may be instructive to pause and reflect on a few words of staggering indictment from our past. It was the practice of legislatures and national leaders in our nation's early years to invite ministers to the chambers of government on holidays and election day to speak on divine guidance - Paraphrasing Exodus 18:21, which includes instructions on both the kind of leaders we should elect and the basic political structure that human government should consist of, the patriot Samuel Langdon speaking before the New Hampshire legislature on June 5, 1788, gave the following advice:

"From year to year be careful in the choice of your representatives and the higher powers [offices] of government. Fix your eyes upon men of good understanding and known honesty; men of knowledge, improved by experience; men who fear God and hate covetousness; who love truth and righteousness, and sincerely wish for the public welfare... Let no men openly irreligious and immoral become your legislators... For if the legislative body are corrupt, you will soon have bad men for counselors, corrupt judges, unqualified justices, and officers in every department who will dishonor their stations... On the people, therefore, of these United States, it depends whether wise men or fools, good or bad men, shall govern..."

Landon's warnings on corruption aptly fit a breed of office-holders we see today - and as he points out, the kind of leaders we have depends entirely on the vigilance and attention to duty of voters.

It is obvious that many voters have not been taught, nor exercised, these fundamentals of American freedom.


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