CRA History
The Louise Leigh / Fred Davis Work


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McCloskey Censured

The convention adopted a resolution censuring Congressman Pete McCloskey, accusing him of "siding with radical groups to promote violence."

At a quarterly meeting in September 1971, the Board of Directors put President Nixon on notice that he was not automatically assured of getting the CRA endorsement in 1972. A policy paper adopted by the Board outlined "criteria and conditions that will enable us to conscientiously support and work hard for a Republican presidential candidate in 1972, whoever he may be."

The criteria called for immediate steps to restore military superiority, reaffirm support of the Republic of China on Taiwan, restore the right of Americans to own gold, reaffirm the Monroe Doctrine, establish a national Pearl Habor Day holiday, end all foreign aid giveaways, and restrict donations to the U.N.

A "dump Nixon" group within CRA was called a "tiny minority," but the 1972 convention, held in Palo Alto in April, was described in a CRA News headline as "the wildest in history." The dissident anti-Nixon group was only part of the excitement. Left-wing demonstrators tried to storm the meeting at the Cabana Hyatt House, and there were threats to bomb the meeting. Target of their ire seemed to be Vice-President Spiro Agnew, who was scheduled to address the Saturday night banquet. To cross up the demonstrators, Agnew's speech was switched to the luncheon meeting. The anti-Nixon forces could muster only 86 votes as the convention voted to endorse the President's re-election.

The star-studded convention cast also included Governor Reagan, Congressman (and presidential hopeful) John Ashbrook of Ohio, and former deputy defense secretary David Packard.

Don Pretzer was elected CRA president.

Some CRA members in Orange County bolted from the organization to join the late-blooming campaign of Congressman John Schmitz, a CRA member who left the party in the summer of '72 to become the presidential nominee of the American Independent Party. Schmitz had been defeated in the congressional primary after criticizing President Nixon.

In November, the Nixon-Agnew ticket won a landslide victory. CRA, which had been splintered slightly by the anti-Nixon dissidents, pulled itself together and looked forward to the 1974 campaign.

At the quarterly Board meeting Jan. 19-21, 1973 in Fresno, host committee chairman Mary Stanley came up with a special "Inaugural Banquet." The Saturday night banquet coincided with the Nixon-Agnew inaugural ball in Washington, which was televised into the banquet room of the Del Webb Townhouse in Fresno. The CRA members who had worked hard for the national party ticket's victory, got to share in the celebration of the inaugural.

The January '73 issue of CRA News had an editorial welcoming John Schmitz home from his American Independent Party presidential campaign, and inviting him to rejoin the Republican Party and CRA Eventually, he did so.

In April of '73, past president Hugh Koford was seated on Alameda County's Superior Court, where he would serve for many years as a distinguished jurist.

A month later the University of Southern California honored past CRA president Robert Fenton Craig at a special awards ceremony which was attended by many CRA members. Dr. Craig was honored for his years of service as a USC teacher.

'73 & Watergate Mania

The 1973 CRA Convention was held in Anaheim in April. Govenor Reagan and Lieut. Gov. Reinecke addressed the gathering. Dick Krugh of Morgan Hill was elected CRA president. An informal CRA News poll of those attending the convention showed that 74 percent favored Ed Reinecke for governor in 1974 (after Reagan completed the limit of two terms). Attorney General Evelle Younger was favored by 11 percent.

When the Watergate crisis developed into a TV show starring Senator Sam Ervin and his Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, it was viewed as a "lynching bee" in a front-page CRA News article in September, 1973. Also during September, the CRA Board met in Palm Springs and adopted an agenda of issues to be addressed during the 1974 election year. CRA took positions opposing any subsidies or price regulations on food products, opposing all wage and price controls, favoring off-shore drilling for oil, insisting on continued U.S. ownership of the Panama Canal, and favoring the sale of government property to private business. "We feel that the average voter is more knowledgeable than many politicans give him credit for being," the position paper summed up, "and he knows full well that money crises are not born from nature, but are caused primarily by the Federal Government."

Former Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty, a "reformed" Democrat, was welcomed into the Griffith Park Hills R.A.

Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz spoke to the January '74 Board meeting in Monterey. It was also announced that month that U.C.L.A. had accepted the historical files of CRA to be kept in the University Research Library. Since then, the archives have been enlarged by continued donation of files, news clippings, photos and other memorabilia.

CRA celebrated its 40th anniversary at the 1974 convention, held March 22-24 at the Sheraton Inn, Fresno. Governor Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly and Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. were among the luminaries taking part. Darell Meyer of Granada Hills was elected CRA president. The convention endorsed Ed Reinecke for governor, John Harmer for lieutenant governor, Bill Richardson for U.S. Senate, Evelle Younger for attorney general, Brian Van Camp for secretary of state, Marian La Follette for controller and John Kehoe for treasurer. Younger, Harmer, Van Camp and Kehoe won primary victories, but Younger was the only one to win in November. Jerry Brown led a near-sweep of state offices by the Democrats.

The 1975 CRA Convention was held at the International Hotel in Los Angeles. Governor Meldrim Thompson of New Hampshire, one of America's staunchest conservatives, spoke at the banquet. Dr. William Banowsky, who was then president of Pepperdine University, addressed the luncheon. Attorney Truman Campbell of Fresno was elected CRA president.

Convention delegates approved the following changes to the by- laws:

- Only one candidate may be endorsed by CRA for any particular office.
- A separate account was established for financing CRA News, with part of each member's dues to be specifically set aside for that purpose, with transfers to and from the publication account requiring Board of Directors approval.
- A public accountant to audit CRA's books would be hired each year.
- The editor of CRA News was given the responsibility of attending all Board meetings and conventions.
At the June meeting of the Board of Directors, three men, S.I. Hayakawa, Dennis Carpenter and Alfonso Bell, announced their candidacies for the US. Senate seat held by democrat John Tunney. A fourth candidate, Robert Finch, was represented at the meeting.

Ronald Reagan Favored For President

There were signs in early 1975 that CRA was leaning heavily toward supporting Ronald Reagan for the presidential nomination over incumbent President Gerald Ford.

State party vice-chairman Mike Montgomery was greeted with spontaneous applause at the June CRA meeting when he called for an "open primary" and the CRA Board adopted a resolution to that effect.

The following month, Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt headed a national "Citizens for Reagan" organization.

At the quarterly meeting in Palm Springs on Oct. 3, Reagan spoke and was obviously a huge favorite of those attending the meeting.

By January, Reagan was a declared candidate. An up-and-coming young Republican named Mike Curb was co-chairman of Citizens for Reagan in California. At the January CRA meeting in Sacramento, Senator Lexalt carried the Reagan message. "Bo" Callaway, chairman of President Ford's national committee, also spoke. Things were heating up for an exciting 1976 convention for CRA and for the National Republican Party.

When the votes were counted at the Palm Springs convention, Wendell Cutting, a 29-year-old former mayor of San Jacinto, had squeezed out a 15-vote win over Len Bock to become CRA President. But the Reagan-Ford endorsement vote was nowhere near that close. By a vote of about 260 to 15 (according to a San Jose Mercury article), CRA said "We want Reagan."

Wendell Cutting had come a long way in a hurry. At 21, he had been named to the State Central Committee by Lu Schlack after "years of precinct work." At 22, he was a veteran of nine political campaigns and was named 38th Congressional District Director for CRA. Next, he became mayor of San Jacinto and a founding director of the California Conservative Union. He was walking (perhaps "running" is a better word) proof that young people can get ahead in the Republican Party.

The Panama Canal was becoming a national issue in 1976, and CRA was up front in arguing the case for keeping U.S. control over the canal.

Police Chief Ed Davis of Los Angeles spoke to the CRA Board meeting at Newport Beach in June, 1976, and called for abolition of the federal income tax.

The national convention of 1976 in Kansas City counted 45 CRA members among Reagan delegates. President Ford was re-nominated, but a lot of Reagan's CRA supporters came home with a "just-wait- until-next-time" attitude. However, they also came home committed, as President Cutting reported, to supporting the Ford-Dole ticket in November.

Carter Wins

Their support could not keep a Georgia peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter from winning the presidency.

Past CRA President Truman Campbell was elected vice-chairman of the Republican State Central Committee in 1976.

The March 1977 issue of CRA News listed long-time editor Bunster Creely as "editor emeritus" with Larry Campbell and Rita Lavelle as co-editors for the south and north, respectively.

At the 1977 convention in Santa Barbara, CRA elected its first woman president, as Mike Evans defeated Bob Thierry. She had been a CRA member since 1964, and was a founder of the Lafayette-Orinda RA.

Judge Halbert (CRA's first president) had this to say in 1983 about the historic role of women in the organization:

"Admittedly, CRA was top-heavy with men in the beginning, and even then the situation worried me... What would we have done without the help of Edith Van de Water, Louise Ward Watkins, Ruth Comfort Mitchell, Gladys O'Donnell... Mrs. Eubanks... Mrs. Wayne Switzer... and the dozens of other distaff citizens who helped us tremendously and sought no reward for themselves."

As 1978 began, Mike Curb and Mike Antonovich were candidates for lieutenant governor. The lineup for governor was a crowded field which included Ed Davis, Pete Wilson, Ken Maddy, John Briggs and, the eventual primary winner, Evelle Younger.

Phyllis Schlafly and Congressman Phil Crane addressed the January Board meeting in Newport Beach.

The 1978 convention was held in Fresno. Mike Evans sought a second term as president, but was defeated by Dennis Catron of Orange County. The margin was only 20 votes. Endorsements went to Ed Davis for governor, Mike Antonovich for lieutenant governor, George Deukmejian for attorney general, Dixon Arnett for controller, Jay Margosian for secretary of state, and Don French for treasurer. Margosian, French, Ware and Deukmejian won primary nominations, but Deukmejian was the only winner in November.

CRA was also solidly behind the tax-limiting Proposition 13, drafted by long-time CRA member Howard Jarvis. When the Board met in San Francisco in July, celebration of Prop. 13's victory brightened the occasion.

The Board met in Santa Cruz in January and heard Ben Fernandez, a self-made business success who was an early-announced candidate for President.

Two former CRA presidents, Truman Campbell and Tirso del Junco, were elected chairman and vice-chairman respectively, of the state central committee in 1979.

More than 125 CRA members attended CRA Day in Sacramento, a growing tradition that was becoming a part of the biennial state party convention.

The 1979 convention was held in Los Angeles at the Hyatt House near the airport. Ronald Reagan and Congressman Phil Crane of Illinois were featured speakers. Both were already running hard for the GOP presidential nomination for 1980.

Delegates adopted resolutions condemning the Carter administration's foreign policies, calling for the abolition of state and federal industrial safety administrations (OSHA and CAL- OSHA), opposing bilingual election ballots, for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, and against forced school busing.

Mike Carrington of Sacramento was elected president of CRA for 1979-80. Past president Gardiner Johnson got special commendation at the convention for his many years of dedicated service.

On April 3, 1979, Bill Royer, who had CRA backing, won a special congressional election in the 11th District, and Ollie Speraw, also with CRA help, captured the 31st State Senate District seat. On June 19th, the same winning formula worked for Ken Maddy as he took the 14th State Senate District back from the Democrats.

At a June CRA Board meeting in San Diego, retired Army General John Singlaub warned that American arms were inferior to those of the Soviet Union.

Prop 13 Supported

In September, tax-fighter Paul Gann asked for and got CRA support for his "Spirit of 13" initiative, which was aimed at putting limits on state and local government spending.

Ralph Morrell of the Dixon RA was waging war on the practice of ghost voting and ghost switching by State Legislators. Legislative rules allowed members to have someone else "ghost vote" for them in their absence from the floor, and also allowed a legislator to change his vote after a bill was voted upon, so long as the change didn't affect the bill's outcome. Under pressure from Morrell's statewide campaign, the rules were eventually changed.

The 1980 convention, which proved to be the California launching pad for one of the greatest Republican victories ever, was held April 11-13 in Santa Clara.

When Ronald Reagan walked into the convention banquet room, he was greeted by a thunderous ovation and a chant of "We Want Reagan ... We Want Reagan." As he addressed the banquet gathering, he reminded CRA, "We have been together so many times ... so many times." He was already in the midst of a nationwide campaign for the presidential nomination, and he certainly didn't have to court the CRA to get its blessing, but he came anyway to Santa Clara, tired but smiling, to bask for a while in the warm affection of old friends.

Reagan was given a symbolic key to the White House. He was also given the CRA's overwhelming campaign endorsement. "This time," he promised, "we will win."

Steve Frank was elected CRA president in a closer race over Jack Marshall, 131-126. Sam Yorty and Paul Gann ended up in a 83- 83 tie vote for CRA's endorsement for Democrat Alan Cranston's seat in the U.S. Senate. Gann would win the nomination, but would lose to Cranston in November.

In June, CRA launched a new campaign tool, putting out a special edition of CRA News as a campaign mailer for endorsed candidate John Lewis in the 70th Assembly District. Lewis won an upset primary victory and was elected in November.

Quarterly Board meetings in Berkeley and Palm Springs helped get CRA fine-tuned for the big race in November 1980.

At the September meeting, former Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke made his formal re-entry into party politics and was given a warm welcome by CRA members. There had been a rumor, he said, that he was seeking the state primary vice-chairmanship. He cleared up the rumor by admitting it was true. He got a standing ovation.

Reagan - "In a Walk"

As the crucial Reagan-Carter election date drew near, Americans were being told by the national pollsters that it was going to be very close. But when long-time CRA member Bunster Creely was asked by the CRA News editor for his opinion, Creely blew out a long stream of cigarette smoke, waved his hand, and pronounced, "It will be Reagan in a walk." The oneman poll by the News was one of the more accurate taken in America that year.

When Reagan won "in a walk," it set off one of the greatest statewide celebrations in CRA history. There were other significant victories for CRA, too. Past CRA President Nolan Frizzelle, for example, unseated a popular Democrat in the 73rd Assembly District. There were at least 7 state senators, 20 assemblymen and 12 congressmen who won with CRA backing. The headline of the Glendale RA's unit bulletin said it for all of CRA: "Victory at last - how sweet it is."

The 1981 convention in Orange County's Irvine was one of the happiest in history. Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb gave a major speech. For the second time in its history, CRA elected a woman president, Jean Mary Orr.

Attorney General George Deukmejian addressed a special "Red, White and Blue" weekend, which was the theme of the quarterly Board meeting in Berkeley in June of 1981. There was a special salute to military veterans.

By late 1981, Republicans were lining up for a spirited U.S. Senate race the following year.

CRA jumped into the middle of an important Reapportionment Referendum, aimed at overturning a blatantly unfair redrawing of state and congressional districts in California by the Democrat- controlled legislature. The referendum would be overwhelmingly passed by voters, but would be foiled by another unfair reapportionment measure adopted by the Democrat legislature.

The 1982 state convention in Fresno was one of the most exciting and controversial ever. The focus of attention was the race between Attorney General George Deukmejian and Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb for the nomination for governor. The race divided CRA into two hardworking factions. Curb and Deukmejian debated before the delegates. There was considerable maneuvering by delegates and officers at the convention, and complaints which arose from the battle resulted in a Special Committee being named to look into various charges and countercharges.

Curb almost got the CRA endorsement, but fell just short of the needed two-thirds majority, getting 203 votes to 103 for Duke.

Bob Dornan was endorsed for U. S. Senate over an impressive list of other candidates.

Coanne Cubete of Fountain Valley was elected president of CRA for 1982-83, becoming the third woman in history, and the second in a row, to head the organization.

Curb and Deukmejian attended a special "unity" meeting of the CRA Board in Anaheim in June, just three days after the primary election. Curb congratulated Deukmejian, and pledged to help elect him governor in November over Democrat nominee Tom Bradley. Also at the unity gathering were other Republicans who lost in June, including Bob Dornan, who came to show his support for U.S. Senate nominee Pete Wilson.

Wilson defeated Jerry Brown for the U.S. Senate seat given up by Republican Sam Hayakawa, and there were other key state legislative and congressional wins for the GOP throughout the state. CRA also helped defeat a gun control initiative.

As CRA began its Golden Jubilee Year in 1983, it could look back upon a long history of real contribution to the party, the state and the nation. It had survived the kind of intense intra- party fights that have crippled or destroyed some organizations. It had peacefully (more or less) gone through the changes which had affected the Republican Party over half a century. Its basic principles remained unshaken and unchanged. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, and that fact gave CRA and its members a strong sense of accomplishment.

As CRA began its 50th year, Founding President Halbert quoted the warning words of Alexander Fraser Tyler, written 100 years before:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority of voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.

From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate who promises the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship."

It could be said that CRA's reason for existence is to help prove that the American Experiment with democracy, based on a bedrock of Constitutional Law, CAN withstand the human weaknesses that are sometimes manifested in majority rule. The philosophy of CRA has been that the Constitution's guarantees must be upheld in order to strengthen the chances of our democratic republic to survive.

With the election of Ronald Reagan as 40th President of the United States, CRA members could take considerable personal and collective pride in their part in bringing to the White House a man that they believed could strengthen the Republic's foundations, and could return America to the kind of responsible fiscal policies that would survive the temporary whims of a sometimes imprudent majority.

As they began their Golden Jubilee year, the membership could see the tide of history turning in their favor and in America's favor.


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