San Jose Mercury News, Serving Northern California Since 1851
Christian right aims for control of county's GOP
BY JEANNE HUBERT, Mercury News Staff Writer
SUNDAY, MAY 31, 1992
A group dedicated to making the Bible the law of the land has quietly positioned itself to take over the Republican Party's power structure in Santa Clara County.
The 17 Christian right candidates for the Republican Central Committee appear on a mailer put out by a Tehama County group called Citizens for Liberty. The flier says the candidates advocate "traditional family values, more jobs, lower taxes, welfare reform and choice in education."
But at least some have a more sweeping agenda. Key among them is Jay Grimstead, an ordained minister who runs the Coalition on Revival out of a two-desk office in Sunnyvale. Grimstead's goal, as he wrote in the first issue of the think tank's Crosswinds magazine, is to bring "families, finances, education, legal matters, professional life, voting choices, involvement in the arts and science, recreation and physical health all under the King's dominion." And along the way, he wants to eliminate the IRS and the Federal Reserve Bank.
Some see takeover plan More liberal Republicans say the Central Committee campaign is part of a widespread "stealth" effort to take over America by starting with little-noticed local races. They cite elections in San Diego County two years ago, when 60 of 90 Christian right candidates for low-level offices won election, largely by campaigning through conservative churches.
"Clearly the strategy is to control the central committees and then use the central committees to give credibility to their candidates," said Luis Buhler, who is on an opposing Central Committee slate in Santa Clara County backed by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Stanford; state Sen. Becky Morgan, R-Los Altos Hills; and Assemblyman Charles Quackenbush, R-Cupertino, among them.
A fund-raising letter for that slate, sent by the Santa Clara County chapter of the California Republican League, warned that the Coalition on Revival's agenda includes "a call for the death penalty for abortion, adultery and unrepentant homosexuality."
That charge is inflammatory and completely false, Grimstead said. "I don't believe it, nor promote it. Nor does anybody on this slate as far as I know."
But when asked whether he supports the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions, Grimstead said, "At this point, I'm not calling for that. I'm calling for the laws to be on the books that were there in the '50s, when abortion was illegal in every state."
Asked whether his inclusion of "at this point" was deliberate, Grimstead replied: "I really would like to go back to the founding fathers.... That's quite a ways back from the '50s. I mainly want to get back before 1913, when the IRS and the Federal Reserve were started."
Grimstead said his opponents are correct in saying that the National Coordinating Council, a political strategy group that he also heads, has targeted Santa Clara and Orange counties to be "taken for Christ." The council's 24-point plan for accomplishing this includes setting up a "Kingdom College" in San Jose to "produce world-changers trained in mobilizing the church" and establishing militias controlled by county supervisors.
No underground movement But, Grimstead said, there is no "awesome underground organiza tion" behind the Christian right's new interest in local politics across the country. Instead, he said, the effort is being directed by God, who is sending signals to "all of his people" that this is the way to help America return to its Judeo-Christian roots. "God hasn't been as active for 200 years as he is now," Grimstead said."
Among the numerous Christian right groups is television evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of California, reported to have 52 chapters and 10,000 members working to elect candidates statewide. Locally, Grimstead said, a group called the Santa Clara County Coalition has been meeting monthly to talk about how to shift public perceptions so that what's now seen as the far religious right will become synonymous with "middle America."
The coalition's strategy sessions usually involve about a dozen people, all of them with wide networks within the Christian community, he said.
Eight coalition members are running for Central Committee, Grimstead said. He wouldn't identify any except for hi mself and Art Derby, a janitorial service owner running in the 4th Supervisorial District (RodDiridon's). Grimstead and his wife, Donna, are candidates in Supervisor Dianne McKenna's 5th District.
'We're not weirdos'
Among the others listed on the Citizens for Liberty flyer is Sara Nelson, a Gilroy City Council member seeking a Central Committee seat in the 1st District (Supervisor Mike Honda's). Nelson said she supports Grimstead, but doesn't agree with him on everything and certainly doesn't advocate the death penalty for abortion, gay sex or adultery. "I believe that's an inflammatory statement to paint us as some sort of weirdos, and frankly we're not," she said.
Mike Schroeder, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, said part of the issue is who controls the labels. Liberals in the party, led by Gov. Pete Wilson, are "trying to reverse a trend and characterize it as guarding against a Christian fundamentalist takeover," he said. Conservatives already control many county central committees in California and accounted for about 400 of the 850 committee members voting at any given time at the party's last state convention, he said.
The Santa Clara County election is considered pivotal. Not only is it one of the most populous counties in the state, with 267,000 registered Republicans - 36 percent of the county total - but the registration is thought to be about evenly divided between conservatives and liberals.
Appeared on 'Donahue'
The liberal Republicans are basing much of their information - including the statement about the death penalty - on research done by Skipp Porteous, a former fundamentalist minister who heads the Institute for First Amendment Studies in Massachusetts, and by Fred Clarkson, a Massachusetts-based journalist who tracks the religious right.
Porteous wrote about Grimstead in Penthouse magazine last September, and that catapulted the two onto the Phil Donahue show in March. "I don't think all of these people (the central committee candidates) know what's going on," Porteous said. "They're being used by the Coalition on Revival." Grimstead is "a very nice person," Porteous said, "but I don't trust the movement he's part of. I support democracy, dissent and debate, and I don't think ultimately that they do."
Grimstead said that even if they win, the Christian right probably won't be in a position to make many huge changes soon. "The body ofChrist- and by that I mean all Christians - I don't believe is ready yet for battle wherever any cost or risk is involved," he said. "So I don't think the liberals need to worry about us for a few years."
"We will not be able to win battles to get America back to normal, mainstream Americanism without a lot more Christians waking up. They're probably still asleep, probably until '96 or '98."
AFTER THE ELECTION
San Jose Mercury News, Thursday, June 4, 1992
ELECTION 1992: THE CALIFORNIA PRIMARY
Christian candidates make strong showing in GOP
BY JEANNE HUBER Mercury News Staff Writer
Control of the Republican Party in Santa Clara and Alameda counties shifted further to the right Tuesday. The move was most dramatic in Alameda County, where 19 Christian right candidates, campaigning as a slate, won 15 of the 24 elected seats on the county central committee.
In Santa Clara County, a similar slate of 17 people opposed to abortion and championing "family" values won half of the 20 elected seats. Jay Grimstead, an influential minister dedicated to making the Bible the law of the land, was defeated. But his wife, Donna Grimstead, won a seat, as did his close associate Art Derby.
An opposing slate in Santa Clara County, campaigning as mainstream activists, won eight central committee seats. Two seats went to people not on either slate. (Besides the elected members, the central committees include winners of Republican primary races, regardless of how they do in November.)
People on both ends of the Republican spectrum said Wednesday that the Christian right candidates scored a significant victory. "Far out," said Gilroy Councilwoman Sara Nelson, a winner in the 1st Supervisorial District.