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PALM LATITUDES

Body Politic

February 16, 1992|Tom Waldman | Edited by Mary McNamara

Nicholas Tobey wants to take back the Republican Party. The 21-year-old political science student at Santa Monica College is furious that ultraconservatives have seized control of College Republicans chapters throughout Southern California, making the GOP seem like, well, a bunch of radicals. A self-described moderate, Tobey blames the rightest campus organization, Young Americans for Freedom. "Whenever they want to take control of a group," says Tobey, "people leave out of frustration."

Earlier this year, the conservatives voted in ultrarightists to key statewide positions in the 1,800-member College Republicans. According to Tobey, the new leaders then decided to "decharter" chapters run by moderates, including those at USC, UC Irvine and Cal State Long Beach. Moderates, the leaders claimed, were out of touch. That was the last straw for Tobey. Along with other moderates--who support abortion rights and gay rights yet are conservative on fiscal issues--he formed the California Student Republican Alliance. The difference between his group, which now has a 400-student membership on 19 campuses, and the College Republicans is tolerance, he says. "We are inclusive, rather than exclusionary," says Tobey. "We give access to everyone. "

Political leaders have started to notice--Rosalie Zalis, senior policy adviser to Gov. Pete Wilson, recently pledged support to the new group. Tobey spends much of his time, and his money, traveling to various GOP youth gatherings looking for new members. "I am the link between all these people across the state." Not surprisingly, he is thinking of running for office someday.

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