Orange County's leading Republicans gathered for chili and popcorn Sunday afternoon to raise about $50,000 toward Project '90, the statewide GOP plan to take over the Assembly before redistricting in 1990.
The money was raised at an auction that saw more than 1,000 items sold for prices ranging from $10 for a 2-by-3-foot oil painting of a matador to $8,000 for a weeklong Caribbean yacht cruise. Also sold were a player piano for $4,750, a Faberge chess set for $3,500 and a belt taken from a Russian soldier after a battle with the Afghan rebels, which went for $300.
The proceeds will be added to about $280,000 already amassed for the project since it was launched last December by John Cronin, Doy Henley and Buck Johns, whose Santa Ana Heights home was the site of the auction. The three men, all members of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a GOP support group, decided to spearhead the project in California because "everyone was talking about it but nobody was doing it," Cronin explained.
The project's first goal is to raise half a million dollars before the November elections. The money is aimed at increasing the Republican seats in the Assembly by five, which would give the party a majority. Currently, Democrats hold a 44-36 majority.
Republicans feel that Democrat-controlled reapportionments have gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts to the disadvantage of the GOP.
"This is the beginning of a great opportunity to make political havoc in California," Ken Khachigian, chairman of the event, told the crowd gathered on Johns' tennis court.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriett M. Wieder, who already had donated $25,000 to Project '90, made the top bid of the day when she topped by $500 the bid of Bob Teller of Newport Beach for the Caribbean cruise aboard a 65-foot yacht (complete with three staterooms and fully staffed).
"I'm crazy!" Wieder said in the excitement of her winning bid. A candidate for the 42nd Congressional District, Wieder said, "I think I'll take my highest contributors" on the cruise. Her husband, Irv, said Wieder might be in Washington at the time of the cruise early next year. But he was philosophical about it. "It's for a good cause," he said.
As for Teller, he said he finally dropped out because his wife "kept kicking me in the shins saying, 'I get seasick. I get seasick.' "