CRA History
The Louise Leigh / Fred Davis Work

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The Second 50

The 50th convention was a very big affair. Party bigwigs and CRA old-timers from the early days of the organization mixed with gawking delegates at the Los Angeles Airport Hyatt Hotel. They included Gov. George Deukmejian, U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, and 19 of the 24 living past presidents of CRA. Bob Barkell, president in 1937-38, was the earliest of the presidents on hand.

Bob Thierry of Fairfield was elected president, succeeding Coanne Cubete of Fountain Valley, as the north-south alternating of the presidency was observed.


During 1983, CRA worked hard at two efforts that fell short: The Sebastiani Reapportionment initiative, and an attempt to unseat Tom Hayden from his new job in the State Assembly.

Charlie Lavis, long-time favorite of CRA, and a state vice president for several years, passed away that year. Charlie was best known for suddenly bursting into song. When tempers would flare at a statewide meeting, Charlie would restore order by leading a singalong. Myron Way of Kensington-El Cerrito RA joined in the musical spirit by writing an official CRA song, "C'est CRA," sung to the tune of "C'est Cera, Cera."

CRA News was published monthly during this period.

Past-president Mike Evans helped Texans start the Texas Republican Assembly.

The officially-adopted CRA issues for 1984 included opposition to abortion, expansion of free enterprise, a balanced federal budget, opposition to the ERA for women, tougher sentencing of criminals, and reduced government regulations.

Reagan endorsed

At the 1984 endorsing convention, President Reagan was endorsed for re-election, and Joe Gilmaker of Santa Ana was elected CRA president. The convention, held at the Sacramento Red Lion Inn, had 287 delegates. Governor Deukmejian was there. Assemblyman Bill Baker of Walnut Creek was named CRA Legislator of the Year. A month after the convention, its chairman, Norm de Young of Sacramento, would present a $4,811 check to state CRA as the state's profit from the very successful convention.

David Balsiger, a member of the Costa Mesa RA, led a successful "Ban the Soviets" movement, which resulted in the Soviet Union deciding to not participate in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Dave's organization offered to help Soviet athletes defect. They also kept up heavy lobbying pressure in Washington.

Dr. Robert Craig, one of the co-founders of CRA in 1934, died Sep. 19, 1984, at the age of 81.

Minority groups

The rising importance of Asian Americans in U.S. politics prompted extra GOP efforts to register them. CRA Past President Dennis Catron led a drive in what has become known as the "Little Saigon" area of Orange County, and helped form several Asian American GOP groups.

Ezola Foster helped organize a black CRA unit in the Marina- Venice area.

Barbara Rathbun of the Sacramento area, who had held almost every local and state post in CRA over the preceding 13 years, was elected president at the 1985 convention in Irvine.

There were 98 active units reported at the convention.

An important by-laws change adopted in 1985 made it possible, by two-thirds vote at a Board meeting, to expel any CRA member who publically supports, or uses his or her name in connection with CRA to support, any candidate of another party or a candidate opposing any CRA-endorsed candidate.

Mike Uland of the Lyn Nofziger RA in San Francisco was named Young Republican of the Year by the national organization.

Seven of the eight GOP primary candidates for Alan Cranston's U.S. Senate seat spoke at the January 1986 Board meeting in San Francisco. The meeting's theme was a salute to America's veterans. At the annual endorsing convention in Fresno, none of them could get the two-thirds vote needed for a CRA endorsement. The convention elected Dr. Ralph Waugh of Palmdale to the presidency. Party unity was in evidence at Fresno. Governor and Mrs. Deukmejian were on hand, along with the leaders of Republican Federated Women, the California Republican League, and the Young Republicans.

Growth in North

Growth of CRA in Northern California was being led by Jim and Bess Vinson of Paradise. They started several new units, including an Oroville unit which chartered with 95 members.

In June of 1986, special CRA honors went to Biinster Creely of Newport Beach, who edited CRA News for many years, and Marsha Corzine, long-time volunteer who kept the newspaper's circulation files.

At a special convention on Sept. 13, 1986 in Santa Clara, CRA voted to oppose all incumbent Democrats, including Chief Justice Rose Bird, in the upcoming election of State Supreme Court Justices. Honored at the convention was Charlie Conrad of Thousand Oaks, who had been a CRA member for 50 years.

David Jacobsen, just freed as a hostage in Lebanon, came to the CRA Board meeting in Ontario in January of 1987. Also at that meeting, President Ralph Waugh reported that a survey be conducted showed that about $160,000 was raised and donated by CRA units to GOP candidates during 1986, and that some 40,000 hours of volunteer work had been done for candidates by CRA members.

54th Convention

At the annual convention in March in Irvine, Bob Byerley of Fairfield was elected CRA president. Bob, a retired military man, vowed to devote "full time" to the job. The bylaws were amended to forbid any CRA member from using his or her CRA name or title in endorsing candidates for state party office.

As 1988 began, the Palm Springs and River City (Sacramento) units were battling for the honor of being called the biggest CRA unit. Each claimed more than 300 members.

Conservative Republicans in Vermont founded the Vermont Republican Assembly, fashioning it after CRA. The VRA issued a statement of principles similar to that of CRA. State party and CRA officials pondered a new state court ruling which lifted the ban on official party endorsements of primary election candidates.

Campaign reform

The state party first endorsed, then backed away from an initiative proposal by Congressman Bill Thomas of Bakersfield. The Thomas proposal, which he discussed at a CRA meeting, would have placed more emphasis on local fundraising, thus weakening the power of legislative leaders such as Democrat Willie Brown, the Assembly Speaker, who raised money and distributed it statewide to help elect his favorite Democrat candidates. At the annual convention in Redwood City, Dr. Ev Roden of Glendale was elected CRA president. Bill Allen, popular CRA member, was named by President Reagan in late 1988 to become chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

The CRA Board of Directors voted to support none of the several insurance-related propositions on the Nov. 1988 election ballot. The Board supported a proposition requiring AIDS testing for certain suspects, and opposed several bond issues and a measure that would restore funding to the state Occupational Safety Hazard Administration.

National effort

During the 1988 GOP National Convention in New Orleans, there was an historic first meeting of people representing Republican Assembly organizations from California, Vermont, Texas and Illinois. Talks began on the idea of a national Republican Assembly. In the November general election, the Bush-Quayle national ticket, endorsed by CRA, won the White House. Senator Pete Wilson, endorsed by CRA, was re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Later, President Roden would report that CRA was credited with almost 13,000 new registered Republicans during the election campaign. This earned the organization two more seats on the state party central committee.

New directions

During the 1988 campaign, CRA's membership was swelled as many supporters of GOP primary presidential candidate Pat Robertson joined our ranks. These and other new members brought with them strong convictions about family values, including the prohibition of abortion and opposition to the political power of homosexuals.

By the time the 1989 CRA convention got underway in Costa Mesa, these new members, joined by longtime CRA members of similar opinions, had a majority of the delegates. They swept into office a new slate of CRA officers, including President Bill Hoge of Pasadena. Symbolic of the sudden shift was the treatment of Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates. Chief Gates was invited by the outgoing Board of Directors to address the convention. After new officers were elected, the new Board condemned Gates for his department's treatment of anti-abortion demonstrators.

Some long-time CRA members, particularly in Northern California, dropped out. But membership grew in the San Diego and Sacramento areas, where the new leadership had strong organizations. Also, some CRA old-timers, who had held diminished roles in the CRA during recent years, again came to the forefront as activists. Some expressed a belief that the new leadership was returning CRA to a stricter observance of conservative doctrine and basic CRA principles.

The dramatic changes probably represented the biggest change in CRA's directions since the historic 1964 convention in Fresno, at which supporters of Barry Goldwater wrested control of the organization from advocates of the more liberal Nelson Rockefeller. Goldwater got the convention endorsement for President, and the Rockefeller liberals never again had any real influence in CRA.

With the new leadership installed in 1989 came new ideas, plus the active pursuit of some older CRA ideas. For years, the organization had talked of computerizing its membership rolls and of hiring a full-time staff person. New membership secretary Kelly Krug, a computer specialist, completed the computerization of the rolls by mid-89. In early 1990, the Board of Directors voted to hire a full-time field coordinator.

Several conservative GOP state legislators pledged to make annual donations of $5,000 each to CRA to help fund operations.

As CRA members headed for the 57th Annual Convention in San Diego at the end of March, 1990, they could look back upon a 56-year record of service to their party, state and nation, and ahead to new challenges: Trying to overcome the Democrat gerrymandering of the state's political districts; working to elect a new Republican governor to succeed George Deukmejian, who was retiring; influencing state and national legislation to block abortion; and the election of a new generation of conservative Republicans to lead California and to keep the torch of GOP conservatism burning brightly. If they are as successful in their efforts as those who first lit the torch in 1934, we will enjoy reading of their exploits in later editions of CRA history.

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