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Young Republicans Give It the College Try

National group proudly follows the party line. But its vote for a new leader is questioned.

June 27, 2005|Steven Bodzin | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. — College students are known for rebellion. But at the 56th biennial convention of the College Republican National Committee, which ended Sunday, future GOP leaders showed no inclination to question the party's recipe for success.

Decked out in their best outfits and sporting red, white and blue stickers reading "I'm NRA for Tom DeLay," the 600 delegates cheered party bigwigs and chose a new chairman in the organization's most intense leadership race in 30 years.

In an election shaken by accusations of vote-rigging and disenfranchisement, Paul Gourley of the University of South Dakota defeated Michael Davidson of UC Berkeley by six votes.

Davidson's supporters said some of their delegates were disenfranchised by backers of Gourley, who as the organization's treasurer has been under fire for what critics call deceptive fundraising practices by the committee during the 2004 political campaign.

The accusations were reminiscent of the contentious fights for Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000, elections in which senior White House political advisor Karl Rove helped George W. Bush to victory. And it was Rove who, in 1973, won the chairmanship in the College Republican National Committee's last contested election.

Despite electoral acrimony, delegates took pains to highlight their ideological consistency.

"We all follow Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: Don't speak ill of another Republican," said Amaury Gallais of UC Berkeley.

Gourley said: "Our job is to support the president's agenda. We had an election, but we walk out the next day united."

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