William F. Reichel of Oakland was elected CRA president. He appointed a Committee of 29 (committees in those days seemed to have numbers instead of descriptive titles) to recommend candidates for statewide offices. Worth Brown chaired the panel, which included a membei of each of California's 23 Congressional districts, plus six members at-large.
After interviews, meetings and a lot of study, the committee got together in San Luis Obispo in March, 1942. When the 9th Annual Convention met in Santa Barbara April 17-20, 1942, the Committee of 29 recommended Attorney General Earl Warren for governor, Harry Riley for re-election as controller, and Charles Johnson for treasurer. The delegates unanimously endorsed all three. Added to the endorsed slate were Frederick Houser for lieutenant governor and Frank Jordan for secretary of state. The entire slate was elected Nov. 3, 1942. The only statewide office in which CRA did not endorse was for attorney general. That spot was won by a Democrat.
The Ninth Annual Convention elected Carlyle L. Lynton as CRA president.
The Tenth Annual Convention in Los Angeles on Feb. 20, 1943 was held during a non-election year, and there is no record of any significant happenings at the convention. Governor Earl Warren addressed an afternoon session. His basic message was that the men in uniform who were fighting World War II expected the folks back home to "look after the home front" and to support the troops in the field. William Troyer of Santa Cruz was elected president.
The convention did set the stage, however, for the beginning of an all out push to unite California Republicans for the 1944 presidential election. At the Board of Directors meeting in Sacramento on May 2, 1943, President Troyer named a Fact-Finding and Candidates Committee. The panel's tasks were to screen candidates who might challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Sheridan Downey, and to recommend names to serve as delegates to the 1944 National Convention. Past President William F. Reichel chaired the committee.
Also named at the Board meeting was a National Contact Committee. This group was to invite GOP presidential candidates to California prior to the May 1944 presidential primary. Chairman of this committee was Gordon X. Richmond of Orange.
At their San Jose meeting Nov. 6, 1943, the Board began the actual process that would lead to national delegate selection and to the endorsement of a U.S. Senate candidate.
The Fact Finding and Candidates Committee made it clear that they did not favor any particular candidate for president, but would look for "the man who could beat Roosevelt."
Prospective senatorial candidates under study were Lieut. Governor Frederick Houser, Assembly Speaker Charles W. Lyon, Los Angeles attorney Lloyd Wright, Raymond Haight of Los Angeles, State Treasurer Charles Johnson, railroad commissioner Justus Craemer, State Superintendent of Schools Philip Bancroft (who had run in 1938), Wallace Ware of Los Angeles, Board of Equalization member William G. Bonelli, Judge Goodwin Knight of Los Angeles and State Senator George Biggar of Mendocino.
Warren, however, had already written to the committee to make it "clear and plain" that he was not a candidate "for either position on the national ticket." In fact, said Warren, it was really too early to be thinking about endorsing candidates.
The Board of Directors went ahead and recommended a Warren delegation, anyhow. But, there was said to be widespread sentiment throughout CRA and the party for Dewey, Taft, Stassen, Bricker and Willkie.
When the election-year Eleventh Annual Convention was held April 16, 1944 in San Jose, the principal speakers were Governor Warren and Governor John Bricker of Ohio. Other party leaders at the convention included Lieut. Gov. Houser, state Central Committee Chairman Edward Tickle of Carmel, and Congressman John Z. Anderson of San Mateo.
The Fact-Finding and Candidates Committee recommended that CRA give its pre-primary endorsement to Lieut. Gov. Houser for U.S. Senate. There was also strong CRA sentiment for Justus Craemer and others, so a dispute developed. Governor Warren sidestepped the issue by saying, "I'm too busy with state business right now to take any interest in the senatorial campaign." Some convention delegates wanted the CRA to make no endorsement. Spokesman for this group was Gordon X. Richmond of Orange County. Houser won the endorsement.
In the May 16, 1944 primary, the Warren delegate slate won the nomination of California's voters. Houser won the party nomination over Bonelli and Craemer. Again, the CRA endorsements had given a powerful boost to the chosen candidates.
In sharp contrast to the national political situation, the Republicans were very much in control in California, and the CRA was largely responsible for that fact. The Assembly controlled the Central Committee, the campaign fundraising apparatus, and the precinct organizations.
Murray Chotiner of Los Angeles was elected CRA president at the 1944 convention. He would later play a major role in the meteoric rise of a young California politician named Richard Nixon.
Chotiner sent a letter to all CRA officers, including presidents of county units, in which he set forth a simple strategy for getting out the vote on the precinct level:
"... polls disclose that 85 to 91 percent of Republicans will vote for our candidates... as high as 36 percent of the Democrats will vote our way... average number of voters to a precinct is 300... assume that the average percentage of Democrats is 60 percent... 180 Democrats to a precinct... 90 Democrat homes... it is not necessary for us to spend time making a canvass of Republican voters... conduct a telephone poll of Democrat homes... find out for whom the Democrat voter intends to vote (Chotiner suggested posing as a poll taker)."
Chotiner went on to tell in detail how the precinct worker should go to the polling place at 10:30 a.m., check off of his list the names of those Republicans and "friendly" Democrats who had voted, then start phoning those who had not. The process was to be repeated at 2:30 p.m. and kept up until all Republicans and all friendly Democrats had voted.
Despite the best efforts of Chotiner and CRA, the Democrat national ticket carried California.
In California, CRA held its Twelfth Annual Convention on Feb. 19, 1945, in picturesque Lake Arrowhead. The convention voted, among other things, to go on record against a proposed increase in state gasoline taxes. A resolution also recommended a change in the State Constitution that would eliminate the voter initiative from general election ballots and place all initiatives on special or primary ballots.
Arthur C. Carmichael was elected president. Many CRA members who had gone off to war were beginning to come home.
President Roosevelt's death on April 13, 1945, brought Harry Truman to the presidency.
At a CRA Board meeting May 19 in San Jose, a resolution opposed pending state legislation which would have made all state constitutional offices, except governor and lieutenant governor, non-partisan.
At Santa Barbara in September of 1945, the Board appointed a new Committee of 29 to study aspiring GOP candidates for the next election. Past president William Troyer was chairman.
As CRA delegates gathered in San Jose on March 30, 1946, for the Thirteenth Annual Convention, they faced an impressive array of California Republicans seeking their endorsement. The Committee of 29 recommended the re-nomination of Governor Warren, Senator Knowland, Secretary of State Frank Jordan, Treasurer Charles Johnson and Controller Thomas Kuchel. They recommended Judge Goodwin Knight for lieutenant governor. Their pick for attorney general was past CRA president Edwin Shattuck, who was serving as a colonel in the Army, but was due to be mustered out soon. Shattuck, however, declined the endorsement before the convention began.
Seeking the attorney general nomination were Los Angeles D.A. Frederick Howser, Assemblyman Harrison Call of Redwood City and Deputy Attorney General Walter Bowers of Los Angeles.
Besides Knight, aspirants for lieutenant governor were Assembly Speaker Charles Lyon and Assemblyman Sam Collins of Orange County. Assemblyman Walter Fourt of Ventura, a Lyon supporter, sought a "no endorsement" vote, claiming that the endorsement of Judge Knight would split the party. His move was voted down 81-4. Some split! Leading the fight for Goodwin Knight were Worth Brown and G. Revelle Harrison. They prevailed easily, and Harrison of Los Angeles was elected CRA president.
CRA endorsements were given to Warren, Knight, Jordan, Kuchel, Johnson and Howser. All won their primary nominations... and all won handily in November.
Earlier that year, a young Navy veteran and his wife, Pat, had been introduced to CRA members at a meeting in Pasadena. They liked him, endorsed him, and helped him win his first term in Congress. His name was Richard Milhouse Nixon.
Strehlow named a Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by Arthur Carmichael, to work with the State Central Committee and other groups in picking delegates to the 1948 Republican National Convention. Arthur Carlson of Oakland, chairman of the State Central Committee, immediately began discussions with Strehlow and the committee.
When the Board of Directors met in October, 1947, at Riverside, the Fact-Finding Conunittee unanimously urged that Warren be named head of the National Convention delegation, and asked the governor to permit the use of his name as a candidate for President. Meeting at the same time in Riverside, the executive committee of the State Central Committee took similar actions.
There could be no doubt that California's Republican leaders wanted Earl Warren to run for President.
The CRA Board adopted a resolution throwing CRA's wholehearted support behind the Warren effort.
A special CRA convention was called by Strehlow for Jan. 17, 1948, at Pebble Beach. That convention officially endorsed Earl Warren for President.
After the convention adopted a resolution calling upon all delegates to the National Convention in Philadelphia to nominate Warren, an old fashioned floor demonstration rocked the convention floor at the Del Monte Lodge. Banners reading "Warren for President" flooded the floor. Delegates sang "California, Here We Come." When the demonstration was brought under control, former past CRA President McIntyre Fairies, then serving as National GOP Committeeman, addressed the delegates. He reminded them that CRA had acted as a "sounding board" for the party in the past by:
- Heading up the Warren delegation in 1936.
- Endorsing Warren for attorney general in 1938.
- Giving Warren a successful preprimary endorsement for governor in 1942.
- Supporting a delegation pledged to Warren for President in the 1944 National Convention.
The California Republican Assembly had nurtured, promoted and virtually created the rising political career of Earl Warren. Later, when Warren's liberal policies as Chief Justice of the United States became a bitter thorn in the side of California conservatives, they would seek his impeachment.
At the Fifteenth Annual Convention of CRA in Santa Cruz on May 14,1948, Governor Warren announced that he would become an active presidential candidate. He thanked CRA for its support.
It was also at that 1948 convention that the CRA decided to change a basic philosophy of its organization. No longer would the counties be the major organizing level for units. Beginning in 1948, local communities could organize CRA units and appeal directly to the state organization for chartering. The late Frank Adams, writing in a 1974 CRA information booklet, noted that the old organization plan "tended to center the activities of the CRA in the larger, highly-populated counties, while counties with more widely-scattered population found the plan less effective." The new, broader organization plan was aimed at changing that.
Gordon Richmond of Orange County was elected CRA president.
In the 1948 primary, Warren won California's GOP contest. At the National Convention in Philadelphia, Governor Thomas Dewey of New York was nominated for President and Warren for V.P.
In November, the Harry Truman Alben Barkley Democratic national ticket upset Dewey-Warren. Truman-Barkley carried California by a margin of less than 18,000 votes.
Later, in a letter to delegates of the 40th CRA Convention in 1974, Arthur Strehlow would recall the excitement of that 1948 campaign, and the national publicity which focused on CRA's demonstration for Warren at Pebble Beach.
Ernest L. West of San Francisco was elected CRA President.
When the Board of Directors met in Los Angeles on April 24, 1949, Gordon Richmond, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, discussed a feud which had apparently developed between Governor Warren and Attorney General Frederick Howser. Reasons for the feud are unclear now, but Richmond said CRA would be "derelict in its duty" if it did not recognize the feud "and do something about it."
President West named Richmond to chair the Fact-Finding Committee, and said the committee should not only seek good candidates for 1950, but also report back if any "Republican office holder was not acting properly." The latter task was an obvious reference to the Howser matter.
When the Board met again on Oct. 8,1949, Richmond's committee noted the possibility of a coming clash between Governor Warren and Lieutenant Governor Goodwin Knight over the Assembly's 1950 endorsement for governor. The committee set up a plan to hold extensive hearings on that issue, and on expected similar contests for U.S. Senator, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Contenders for the Senate nomination were Superior Court Judge Frederick F. Houser (not the same Frederick HOWSER who was subject of the earlier discussion), L.A. County Supervisor Raymond Darby and Congressman Richard Nixon of Whittier. Frederick N. Howser and Ed Shattuck were leading attorney general hopefuls. William Reicher of Oakland chaired a fact-find subcommittee to screen gubernatorial candidates, Worth Brown of Capitola chaired the lieutenant governor panel, G. Revelle Harrison of Riverside chaired the U. S. Senate sub-committee.
By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Senate fact-finding group recommended Judge Houser over Nixon. The full Fact-Finding Committee, on a secret ballot vote, reversed the sub-committee and voted 13 to 12 for Nixon. By such a narrow margin was Nixon able to get a key boost at an important juncture in his political career.
Shattuck was the unanimous committee choice for attorney general. Recommended for re-election support were Governor Warren, Lieutenant Governor Knight, Controller Tom Kuchel, Treasurer Charles Johnson and Secretary of State Frank Jordan.
At the 17th Annual CRA Convention at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel on March 25, 1950, incumbent Attorney General Howser urged party unity and asked CRA to make no endorsement for attorney general. The San Francisco Chronicle characterized his plea as "almost tearful."
The Chronicle story disclosed testimony before a Sonoma County Grand Jury that "the punchboard monopoly put $50,000 into Howser's 1946 campaign as the purchase price for immunity from interference" by the attorney general's office. Before CRA, Howser reportedly called such charges "scurrilous and scandalous lies."
The CRA delegates unanimously endorsed Shattuck for Howser's job, and accused Howser of having allowed "vicious growth and development of organized crime and rackets."
Congressman Richard Nixon addressed the convention. He proposed that Republican leaders "such as Senators Taft and Vandenburg, former President Hoover, Governors Warren and Dewey, John Foster Dulles, Harold Stassen, and General Eisenhower" confer with President Truman on national policy. Nixon also urged Republicans to back "a consistent, realistic foreign policy," rather than "mere negative opposition to the course being pursued" by the Democrats.
Convention delegates backed the Fact-Finding Committee's recommendations for endorsements.
The 1950 convention also took the unusual step of kicking 65th District Assemblyman John W. Evans out of CRA over Evans' alleged switching of his party registration. Evans was said to have been elected as a Democrat at the high tide of New Dealism, and had switched to the Republican side only after the New Deal tide had ebbed.
All pre-primary CRA endorsees for state and U.S. Senate offices won the party's primary nomination in 1950. All won election in November, except Ed Shattuck. He was beaten in the attorney general's race by a man named Edmund F. (Pat) Brown.
Richard Nixon went to the U.S. Senate.