IFAS | Freedom Writer | December 1998 | cagop.html

Tide ebbs for California GOP

In 1990, the radical Religious Right surprised the pundits by winning almost 60 seats in the San Diego, California county elections. That election is sometimes referred to as "the San Diego Surprise." Soon, the Republican Party in California was dominated by conservative Christians. In this year's election, years of conservative Christian labor came to naught. Activist Jerry Sloan, a former fundamentalist minister, has followed the rise of the Religious Right in California. Sloan, more than any other individual, has provided the media with the inside scoop on Religious Right activities in California. Here is his report of this year's election results.

By Jerry Sloan

In 1994, a Republican a tide swept California and the nation. Now, just four years later, in California the tide has gone out. Republicans made their worst showing in forty years.

Only two statewide constitutional offices were retained by Republicans: Bill Jones as secretary of state and Church Quackenbush as insurance commissioner. Quackenbush's wife was not so lucky. In seeking a career change from the private entrepreneurial sector to a new job representing most of Sacramento County in the state senate, she lost by a wide margin to assembly member Deborah Ortiz.

The Republican candidates for governor and U.S. senator, California attorney general Dan Lungren and state treasurer Matt Fong, son of former California secretary of state March Fong Eu, ran lackluster and seriously flawed campaigns.

Lungren's campaign was so badly run that, ten days before the election, political pundit and talking head Robert Novack wrote in his syndicated column a scathing denunciation of Lungren for giving the governor's office to lieutenant governor Gray Davis and along with it control of redistricting after the 2000 census. In launching his campaign Lungren cited his Roman Catholic faith and his strict pro-life views on abortion. His antiabortion views only served to rally pro-abortion supporters. Exit polls show he lost moderate Republican women and the Reagan Democrats who would have found his candidacy attractive.

In the last week of his campaign, Matt Fong, portrayed as a moderate, was knocked off the track when it was revealed that he had made contributions to radical groups from his treasurer's campaign fund. Fong made a $25,000 contribution to an antiabortion parental rights group, and a $50,000 contribution to the virulently antigay Traditional Values Coalition to aid in a campaign to stop same-sex marriage. Fong described the Reverend Lou Sheldon, a man who has made a career out of gay bashing, as "My old friend, Lou Sheldon." In the last ten days of the campaign, Fong ran a TV ad featuring his mother proclaiming what a nice boy he was and basically telling Senator Barbara Boxer to quit picking on him. Of course, the ad became fodder for cartoonists all over the state.

In the California legislative races, the Republicans suffered a big loss by forfeiting five seats in the assembly and two seats in the senate, giving the Democrats a solid majority in both houses.

One of the seats in the senate belonged to none other than Capitol Commonwealth/Allied/California Independent Business PAC and former senate minority leader Rob Hurtt, representing Garden Grove in Orange County. Hurtt, along with four other multimillionaires Howard Ahmanson, heir to the Home Savings fortune; Edward Atsinger, owner of over 45 Christian radio stations; Roland Hinz, publisher of Dirt Bike magazine; and box manufacturer Richard Riddle have poured upwards of $10,000,000 into legislative elections since 1990. Atsinger's nephew, a carpetbagger who moved into the Bakersfield/Fresno area in 1996, also lost his assembly seat.

Former congressman Robert Dornan retained that title for the second time as he suffered a decisive shellacking by congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

For the first time in twenty-four years both the governor and lieutenant governor are from the same party, as former assembly speaker Cruz Bustemonte, now lieutenant governor-elect, became the first statewide Latino office holder.

With these very decisive Democratic victories, the theocratic legislative agenda of the Ahmanson/Hurtt political machine will be held in check at least for the next two years.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.