In December 1932, LeRoy Owens and Durand House, both active Republican leaders, met with Craig and Shattuck in the basement of the Spring Arcade in Los Angeles and were sold on the idea of CRA.
These activists decided to build a statewide precinct organization. With the financial aid of a few bankers and financiers from Pasadena, Robert Craig became the first hired Executive Secretary of CRA and worked in that capacity until 1938. In 1934, his benefactors presented him with a Ford Convertible to continue his good works. He traveled up and down the state of California, uniting the divided factions of the Republican Party.
The first ten years, 1933 to 1943, were formative years. Only men forty-five years or younger were admitted to CRA membership. There were separate Youth, Senior and Women’s groups, but they were not admitted to the mainstream of CRA politics.
Roosevelt was re-elected during this period and America entered World War II in 1941. Nationally, the Republican Party was ineffectual. In California, however, Republican Frank Merriam was elected Governor in 1934. He was defeated by Culbert Olson in 1938. On March 7, 1941, in San Jose, the CRA endorsed Attorney General Earl Warren for Governor, and he was elected in 1942.
In 1940, the CRA sponsored a rally at the Hollywood Bowl where presidential candidate Tom Dewey spoke before 18,000 persons. Republican hopes were high, but again Roosevelt was elected. However, the CRA was beginning to make its mark in politics.
Excerpt from a letter by Ed Shattuck to Young Republican President, George Olmstead of Des Moines, Iowa March 4, 1935:
By June of 1935, the CRA was organized in 47 of the 48 counties in the state of California and had over 8,000 members. The CRA was making political history.
The leaders and big money donors of the Republican Party of California had decided to attempt to bring about the nomination of Former President Herbert Hoover again in 1936. They decided to use the CRA as the vehicle for his first public appearance since his defeat in 1932.
CRA organized a “Western Conference” of eleven western states who were invited and attended the conference held in Oakland in 1935. Former President Hoover spoke publicly.
Factions within the CRA were divided between Governor Frank Merriam, President Hoover and Earl Warren. In addition, newspaper king William Randolph Hearst was a strong supporter of Alf Landon of Kansas and, in a move to gain support for Landon, Ed Shattuck was invited as a houseguest for one week at the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
Despite the “Western Conference” and Hearst’s overtures, the California Delegation was headed by Earl Warren and was “uninstructed.” President Hoover had no delegates and Alf Landon became the nominee of the Republican Party. The CRA was split between Alf Landon and Governor Frank Merriam of California. At their convention in Visalia on Feb. 29, 1936, the CRA agreed to an uninstructed delegation to the National Convention.
In Santa Cruz, February 13, 1939, the 6th CRA Convention elected Worth Brown president. A committee of 15 from CRA was appointed to meet with former President Hoover to oppose the “New Deal,” to write a Republican Platform, and to select a presidential candidate for 1940. They decided on an uninstructed delegation, to invite presidential candidates to California, and that CRA would sponsor their visits. The Los Angeles County Republican Assembly wrote the formula for selecting the California Delegation and Alternates to the Republican National Convention. The formula was adopted on December 1, 1939 at a meeting of official representatives from all Republican statewide organizations. California had 44 delegates to the National Republican Convention. The year was 1939. Germany’s Hitler invaded Poland.
The 7th CRA Convention held in Los Angeles in 1940 elected William D. Campbell president. It was a presidential election year, and Republican hopes were high. Under the auspices of CRA, presidential candidate Thomas Dewey spoke against the “New Deal” at the Hollywood Bowl to 18,000 spectators. Since the California Delegation was uninstructed, the CRA did not pre-primary endorse the presidential candidate.
At this time no statewide candidate could be endorsed by CRA, only by County Republican Assemblies. By 1940, the CRA had its largest membership since its inception–12,000 members.
On March 7, 1941, in San Jose, the CRA Convention elected William F. Reichel president. A dispute arose over a resolution to endorse Wendell Wilkie as National Party Leader. President Reichel also appointed a committee of twenty-nine to recommend candidates for statewide offices, which would not be divisive for CRA. The committee recommended then-Attorney General Earl Warren for Governor. On February 11, 1941, “The Axis,” Germany, Italy and Japan, declared war on America.
In April 1942 in Santa Barbara, Carlyle Lynton was elected president of CRA at the 9th convention. Endorsements were made for: Earl Warren, Governor; Riley, Controller; and Johnson, Treasurer. The non-endorsed candidates declared the CRA endorsement unfair, un-American and un-Republican arguing that CRA did not represent the Republican Party as a whole in California. The opposition was wrong. All CRA pre-primary endorsed candidates were elected but one. The CRA decided on “no endorsement” for the office of Attorney General, and he lost.
In its first ten years, the CRA truly revolutionized the political history of California. Their goal had been to change the Republican image and to elect Republicans to California state offices. However successful in California, for this first decade, they were plagued with “New Deal Roosevelt,” whom they were unable to unseat. Also, America was now in the middle of World War II.