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Veterans Groups, Legislator Vow to Oust Hayden

September 08, 1985|KENNETH F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Several veterans groups vowed last week "to bury this Legislature with letters, phone calls and petitions" demanding that former war protester Tom Hayden be expelled from the state Assembly.

And Orange County Republican Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), continuing his three-month verbal assault on Hayden, said at a Capitol press conference last week that he will introduce a legislative resolution in January declaring that Hayden should not be allowed to hold his Assembly seat because he "aided and abetted" North Vietnam "at a time we were at war with that enemy."

Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who has called Ferguson a "retired Rambo . . . having a midlife crisis," said Thursday that Ferguson has "no grounds whatsoever" to demand that he be ousted.

Voters' Concern

"That is the concern of the voters of my district who have elected me twice," Hayden said. "It is not the concern of a right-wing legislator from Orange County. . . . Suffice it to say, I'm not particularly worried about it."

Ferguson, serving his first term in the Assembly, called Hayden a "traitor" last May during an emotional speech over a resolution honoring Vietnam War veterans.

The 62-year-old retired Marine Corps colonel said Thursday that he hoped the new petition drive announced by the veterans groups last week will persuade Assembly members to vote for a resolution to oust Hayden. He said he did not know how many of his 79 Assembly colleagues now support his effort.

"I'm just a Marine who did 26 years and three wars," he said. "I'm very emotionally involved in this thing."

Hayden, 45, who met with North Vietnamese officials in the mid-1960s, has been the target of previous petition drives and letter-writing campaigns. But it will be a first if Ferguson introduces a resolution calling for his ouster under a seldom-invoked article of the state Constitution which says that anyone "who advocates the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities" cannot hold state office.

The new anti-Hayden petition drive is being spearheaded by Mickey Conroy, director of California War Veterans for Justice and president of the Armed Forces Retirees Assn. of California, both ultra-conservative organizations based in Santa Ana.

Conroy, who has long been involved in multifaceted efforts to get Hayden out of the state Assembly, said the membership of the California War Veterans includes anyone who receives his mailers.

The outspoken conservative filed a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit last year to have Hayden thrown out of office. But Judge Charles Jones said in March the suit was groundless. Conroy is appealing.

"Apparently nothing will be done unless Californians show their outrage in numbers that politicians understand best--potential election results," Conroy said Thursday.

Conroy said veterans organizations are a powerful political force, and the issue of Hayden's seat could be "potentially explosive in its implications for the 1986 elections."

Besides Conroy's organization, groups represented at the press conference included the Marine Corps League, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the California Department Commanders Veterans Council, the Retired Officers Assn. of California and the Fleet Reserve Assn.

But two of the largest veteran's groups, the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans , were notably absent. So were the AmVets of World War II.

Disabled American Veterans has a longstanding policy against involvement in partisan political issues. American Legion spokesman Andy Solanti said his organization had not considered the issue and had not been asked to consider it.

"Right now, we have no comment," Solanti said.

AmVets spokesman Joseph Lopez said the group tries to stay out of all petition drives.

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