There was a faction within the state party that wanted Governor Merriam to be the nominee. Others favored Alf Landon of Kansas, who eventually won the national party's nomination. Former President Hoover also had some supporters.
But, listening to a plea by Earl Warren that Republicans unite behind an uninstructed delegation, the CRA state convention, meeting Feb. 7-9 in Santa Barbara, voted to endorse an uninstructed slate. In the state primary election of May 5 that year, voters followed the lead of CRA, and the uninstructed slate defeated a slate of Landon delegates. Warren and his slate of 21 delegates were said to represent all factions of the state party. Included on the slate were CRA members William Knowland of Oakland, Sherrill Halbert of Porterville, Arthur B. Dunne of San Francisco, and Franklin Donnell and Edward Shattuck of Los Angeles.
Shattuck, who became CRA president in 1936, was invited to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon for a week, where Fred Seaton of Kansas and newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst tried to convince him to support Landon.
At Visalia on Feb. 29, representatives of county CRA units met again to formally approve the list of 21 delegates picked by Warren. A special Committee of 9 was picked by CRA to work with the Warren group. Approval was characterized as "overwhelming."
Delegates to the CRA convention in Santa Barbara also adopted some recommended platform planks for the national party. These included:
- Withdrawal of recognition of Soviet Russia.
- Restoration of the gold standard.
- Agricultural relief, and local administration of unemployment relief.
- Continued support of a free press.
- Adherence to a policy of neutrality in foreign wars.
- Condemnation of the Roosevelt administration's disregard of civil service rules.
- Support of adequate old age pensions and other social security legislation.
Following the Visalia meeting, Hearst continued to promote Landon's name. Governor Merriam now joined the Hearst effort. Apparently, Merriam wanted to be a "favorite son" presidential candidate, but was willing to throw his support to Landon in return for a vice-presidential nod. This move so infuriated CRA leaders that they called an emergency convention for March 15 in Fresno to combat the move. President Shattuck tried to find out whether Landon had authorized the Hearst-Merriam-Landon delegate slate. He got no answer. "The CRA has been favorable to Governor Landon's candidacy up until the time he refused to talk or communicate with our officers," said Shattuck in a statement to the press.
At the special March meeting, Harold Holmes of Oakland and Paul Mason of Sacramento headed the Hearst-Merriam-Landon forces. They begged CRA to take no official position in the May presidential primary election. But, the CRA delegates voted 75-25 to support the un-instructed delegation headed by Warren. The resolution of support was sponsored by Murray Chotiner of Los Angeles and Walter Boyd of Long Beach.
The special convention also adopted a resolution asking Governor Landon to repudiate the Hearst-Merriam-Landon slate, and asking that the slate be withdrawn from the election.
Finally, the Assembly issued a report blaming Landon for splitting the Republican Party in California. Next day, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle detailed how Merriam had sought the presidency, then the vice-presidency, his attempts to control federal patronage and the state's national Republican committee members, and his eventual tie-up with Hearst. The Chronicle, it should be noted, was not a Hearst newspaper.
After the national GOP convention nominated Landon for president and Frank Knox for vice-president, the CRA Board of Directors met June 28, 1936 in Los Angeles and, binding up the factional wounds, endorsed the Landon-Knox candidacy.
Some idea of the size and strength of CRA in 1936 may be had from the fact that more than 500 delegates attended an Alameda County R.A. meeting on Feb. 1 in Oakland. After the national convention, Alameda County R.A. president Bob Barkell brought 12 different organizations together to form the 10,000-member "United Landon-Knox Supporters of Alameda County."
After the November defeat at the polls, President Shattuck called upon CRA to "demand of those in high places within our party, either a performance of the tasks assigned to them ... or their resignation."
The year of 1937, being a nonelection year, and coming in the aftermath of the heavy election losses of November 1936, was a slow year for CRA Northern California units met in Stockton on Feb. 7 and discussed the idea of alternating the CRA presidency, with metropolitan areas providing a president during election years, and more rural areas taking the leadership in non-election years. The idea was adopted as a general plan, so long as it was not a binding rule. The caucus chose San Francisco-Alameda as the appropriate metropolitan area to represent Northern California in the alternating schedule.
The Fourth Annual CRA Convention was held Feb. 19, 1937 in San Francisco. Bob Barkell of Alameda County was elected president. Speakers included State Party Chairman Justus Craemer, Republican National Committeeman Earl Warren and Governor Merriam.
At a meeting in Santa Cruz in December 1937, the Board of directors considered a plan that CRA and the state's Young Republicans merge into one organization. "We have so few active younger people left in the Republican Party that it becomes more apparent every day that we are wasting our energy and resources in trying to keep alive two statewide organizations." wrote Ed Shattuck in a letter to Bob Barkell. The merger, however, was not carried out.
At the Fifth Annual Convention in Riverside on Feb. 13, 1938, delegates decided not to decide. Instead, they voted that the matter of endorsements for statewide candidates be held over to an adjourned session of the convention on April 24 in Fresno.
George Newell was elected CRA president, but died in office, and was succeeded by McIntyre Faries.
The convention recommended the following positions to the national party organization:
- Balance the federal budget.
- Study the feasibility of federal administration of old age pensions.
- Elimination of unnecessary government bureaus.
- Emphasis on marketing and distribution, instead of controls, to solve farm problems.
- Local administration of relief.
Between the Riverside and Fresno conventions, there was much squabbling andjockeying for position as the Merriam and Hatfield forces worked toward getting the CRA endorsement. When the Fresno convention voted 63-44 to make no pre-primary endorsement for governor, it was seen as a moral victory for Hatfield. Merriam won the party primary, but lost to Democrat Culbert Olsen, despite carrying Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alameda counties.
Earl Warren was elected state attorney general.
The frustrations felt by some CRA members were caustically expressed by one statewide leader (who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons) in a letter to another leader:
"...I do not believe that the Republicans have any strong candidates. I can see no reason for the Assembly breaking its back trying to elect a bunch of old-guard Republicans who have one foot in the grave and whose brains have long ceased to function. Personally, I think the only way to cleanup the Republican Party in California is to let the Democrats have a big victory. The old guard will then retire and there will be some hope that, in the not-too-distant future... we will be able to present the people with candidates who have ability and vision. Until that day comes, I believe the Assembly should concentrate on organization and on the building up of county and state central committee control."
The attempt to affiliate with the Young Republicans continued. Worth Brown, chairing a Committee on Affiliation, put forth a plan based upon the YRs having an upper age limit of 35 and CRA establishing a lower limit of 30. Those in between could belong to either group, but the idea was that the YRs provide a sort of apprenticeship for future CRA members. The amalgamation never took place.
In 1938, the CRA newspaper was published weekly and had a circulation of 9,260.
At a Board of Directors meeting in Oakland on July 16, 1938, President Newell discussed problems of financing CRA In those days, funds were available from the Republican National Committee. But as the national party's financial finances grew thinner, CRA explored ways of raising its own funds. The Board adopted a resolution calling for the Los Angeles area to provide 11/20ths and the San Francisco Bay area to provide 9/20ths of CRA statewide financing. The resolution also called upon the National Committee to allot $1,614 to CRA to clear up outstanding obligations. However, half of the money raised in the future by CRA was to go to the National Committee. The other half would be split between county and state CRA treasuries.
- Reduced government spending and a balanced federal budget.
- For farmers, lower interest rates, long-term financing and tariff protection.
- National legislation to prevent California from being flooded with indigents from other states.
- Business must be encouraged to expand and provide jobs, rather than being persecuted and taxed out of existence.
- Stiffer immigration restrictions, removal of aliens from relief rolls, and deportation of anyone in the country illegally.
- Adequate old age pensions, care of disabled veterans, the blind and unemployables.
- Keep politics out of the civil service system.
Another platform plank was aimed at a resolution that had been adopted by the Young Democrats in their state convention in Bakersfield. The YDs sought repeal of the Criminal Syndicalism Law, which prohibited the teaching of sabotage or the violent overthrow of the government. "We emphatically condemn such teachings as un-American," said a CRA resolution, and "agree with that great President Theodore Roosevelt, when he said `there is no room in America for any "ism" but Americanism.'"
A Committee of 15 was appointed by President Brown to develop a plan of action and seek a slate of delegates to the 1940 National Republican Convention. The Board of Directors directed the committee to be representative of all Republicans in California, to recognize the fact that more than 50 percent of California's Republicans were women, and to do their work so well that there would be no contest over which delegation would properly represent the California GOP at the national convention.
At a Board of Directors meeting in Oakland on May 27-28, 1939, the Committee of 15 met with National Committeeman William Knowland and with 1938 Senatorial candidate William Bancroft. Both agreed that presidential aspirants should be invited to California by CRA In July, the Committee of 15, along with Worth Brown and other prominent Republican Party leaders, met in Los Angeles with Herbert Hoover. Hoover agreed with the committee's goals, and said he intended to take charge of an effort to see that the California delegation to the national convention would again be uninstructed.
The Los Angeles County R.A. worked out a formula for choosing the state's 44 delegates. The formula, later approved by the committee and by other statewide GOP groups, called for state leaders to control the selection process, but with proper input from all factions and areas of the state.
Officials of all statewide Republican organizations met Dec. 1, 1939 in San Francisco and agreed on an uninstructed delegation.
William D. Campbell of Los Angeles was elected president.
A highlight of the convention was an anti-New Deal speech by New York Governor Thomas Dewey to a crowd of 18,000 at the Hollywood Bowl.
CRA membership had reached a record 12,000.
Senator Hiram Johnson was endorsed for re-election.
After the national convention nominated Wendell Willkie for president, the CRA Board officially endorsed his candidacy. The Willkie-McNary ticket got 1,351,419 votes in California. The winning Roosevelt-Wallace ticket got 1,877,618.