The Mission and History of CCR
California College Republicans (CCR) was founded in 1963 and is the official College Republican organization for the state of California — and the premier conservative grassroots organization on college campuses! A chartered organization of the California Republican Party, CCR recruits, trains, and empowers College Republicans to combat liberal bias on campus, and helps to elect Republicans throughout our state.
College Republicans, as partisan actors, are able to campaign for and directly support Republican candidates, unlike non-partisan organizations like Turning Point, USA (TPUSA) and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).
It is our mission to have every College Republican in our ranks practiced with the principles of hard work; empowered with the courage to promote conservative, America First, Republican values; and prepared to effect change everywhere they go.
The California College Republicans (CCR) is a California state organization for college, university, high school, and alumni members who support the Republican Party of the United States. Founded on August 29, 1963, the organization is the official chartered youth wing and a recruiting tool for the California Republican Party. It has produced many prominent republican and conservative activists, with notable alumni such as Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Kevin Kiley, Ed Royce, and Dana Rohrabacher; political commentator Ben Shapiro; RNC Committeeman and husband of Congresswoman Michelle Steel, Shawn Steel; and many more.
CCR began with 1,800 members on August 29, 1963 — founded by Randolph Siefkin, Harold Phillips, William Nielsen, William Dillon, and Pete Wilson (who went on to serve as a US Senator from 1983 to 1991 and Governor of California from 1991 to 1999).
The 1963 mission statement of CCR read:
The specific and primary purposes for which this corporation is formed are to support the Republican party, to provide pleasure and recreation for the members, to encourage constructive thinking among young people and the development of their interest in good government, and to unite young people in the spirit of good fellowship to achieve these objectives.
CCR was formed as a break-off group of the California Young Republican College Federation, also known as the California College Federation of Young Republicans, following election disputes in 1962 and 1963. In 1962, the moderates and conservatives violently clashed, with Walter Driver of the conservatives stating six sergeant-at-arms "banged my head into a chair and my body into a wall."
Harold Phillips of the moderates ultimately prevailed in the election as chair.
In 1963, competing conventions of a conservative wing and a moderate wing each elected new chairmen. Trent Devenney and Randy Siefkin each claimed legitimacy, with the California Young Republicans organization — at the time the parent organization of the college federation — set to recognize Devenney. At the same time, nationally, College Republican groups began to break off from the Young Republican groups, where one would service students and the other would service young adults. Siefkin helped lead this split in California, taking his moderate wing of students with him to form CCR. CCR would go on to charter with the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) (which it later separated from in 2019) after it broke off from the Young Republican National Federation. The California Young Republican College Federation continued to exist as part of the California Young Republicans and the Young Republican National Federation until 1969, when they merged with CCR in a unity election. The unification was supported and partially brokered by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.
Reagan enjoyed and worked closely with the youth — among them CCR members — during his campaigns and tenure. In 1988, he described CCR as "A group I take a kind of personal interest in..."
CCR also earned the admiration and attention of another President, Gerald Ford. In 1967, then-House Minority Leader Ford attended the annual CCR convention in Santa Barbara as the keynote speaker. He concluded with the following:
We must build the Republican Party ... We can do that if college Republicans here and throughout the Nation will rise to the responsibility that is theirs--the challenge to go out into the wilderness of young Democrats and come back with some scalps. The future of the Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen, is in your hands.
CCR conventions have featured a number of notable speakers over the years, including Gov. Pete Wilson, Gov. George Deukmejian, Lt. Gov. Edwin Reinecke, Lt. Gov. Mike Curb, Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr., Milo Yiannopoulos, Amb. Richard Grenell, Rep. Paul Gosar, and many others.
1963 was not the only time CCR faced competing conventions and claims of legitimacy. In 1987, Fred Whitaker (who went on to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County) and Jim Michalski ran for chairman. Whitaker, unable to mount enough delegates to win the election, led a walkout at the 1987 election, hoping to break quorum. However, not enough delegates left with Whitaker, and the election proceeded with a vote for Michalski. Whitaker, meanwhile, convened his own convention with the delegates that followed him, where they elected him as chairman. This triggered a crisis over the rightful Chairman of CCR.
Whitaker was backed by CRNC Chairman Stockton Reeves, and Michalski was backed by the California Republican Party. The state party stepped in with, according to the San Francisco Examiner, "a private meeting trying to resolve a dispute between two college Republican groups." This led to party leadership, including CAGOP Chairman Bob Naylor, missing a vote of the party convention calling for the prosecution of the San Francisco AIDS foundation. The state party eventually caved to the CRNC and agreed to recognize both groups as equal and legitimate. They finally merged again in 1988, following a unity convention.
In an interview with the Orange County Register, Whitaker said: "'I was running for chairman of the state College Republicans and we split into two organizations,' ... A 'unity convention' followed and both groups reunited a year later..." Whitaker was defeated by Michalski in the unity convention rematch election.
Prior to the election of President Trump in 2016, the California College Republicans had not had a contested election in nearly a decade. Trump's election sparked a resurgence of youth activism in California, which led to Ariana Rowlands' involvement in the College Republicans. In 2017, Rowlands built a socially conservative and pro-Trump coalition to contest the CCR heir apparent, Vice-chair Leesa Danzek, for the position of chairman. Danzek and her faction were considered the moderate-wing of CCR. The 2017 convention was derailed before voting began, with the OC Register summarizing the events:
Hours-long debates on parliamentary procedures and questions about who could and couldn’t vote ended with student organizers booting more than 150 delegates from a Double Tree Hotel ballroom in San Jose, where the election was being held, into a hallway. The meeting dissolved into heated debates over procedures and by the time some delegates were allowed to return, it was too late. Hotel staff said it was time to go.
The CCR Convention was reconvened in October 2017 at the California Republican Party Fall Convention. By that point, Leesa Danzek had assumed the chairmanship following Ivy Allen's resignation in August. At the meeting, the LA Times reported that "[M]embers accused Danzek of using her influence over the state organization to withhold information about the election and improperly disqualify some students from voting"
Despite the tensions, Rowlands emerged the victor by a vote of 88–64.Rowlands remained popular enough to win reelection in 2018, where she staged the largest attended CCR convention in modern history. She was listed as one of Washington Examiner's "30 Under 30," and brought renewed media attention to CCR from "FOX News, ABC 7 and The Daily Ledger ... Breitbart News ... TIME..."
However, she also faced scandal in her second term. Rowlands and her successor, Kimo Gandall, were accused of allegedly removing CCR members and chapters they disliked via the Judicial Board case Gandall et al. v Morcott et al, which found two members guilty of violating the CCR constitution and stripped their voting rights. According to the Judicial case in question, no further action was taken, and the members and chapters in question remained part of CCR. The case order read:
"[O]rder (1) does not imply formal expulsion from the California College Republicans ... order (3) does not imply the permanent forced dechartering of the defendants’ respective chapters ... [T]o regain the ability to send delegates to the annual convention ... the members may remove the defendants from the presidency of their respective chapters, or (2) the members may amend their governing documents to legally appropriate the power to petition CCR away from the president and to some other member of their chapter as they see fit."
However, dissatisfaction with Rowlands led to another contested election in 2019. Kimo Gandall, backed by Rowlands, and Matt Ronnau each built slates of candidates and announced their intention to run for the CCR Executive Board. Prior to the 2019 election, Ronnau and his slate dropped out of the race and led a push for 10 clubs to decharter, or disassociate, from CCR instead of attending and running in the election. In the press release announcing the mass decharter, the clubs charged that CCR was "Failing to address ... repeated concerns," yet the clubs in question did not appear at the election or introduce legislation to amend CCR's constitution. Gandall was elected chairman.
Most of the 10 clubs that left went on to form a new organization, the California Federation of College Republicans (CFCR). CFCR is regarded as "an establishment GOP group that broke away from the more pro-Trump California College Republicans in 2019." CCR, meanwhile, "describe themselves as the 'Trump wing of the GOP'" — and continuing Rowlands' socially conservative legacy.CCR maintains a supermajority of College Republican clubs in California as of 2021.
The Administrations of Gandall's successor, Nick Ortiz, and Ortiz's successor, Will Donahue, have been credited with getting the organization verified on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — the first state College Republican organization in the country to do so — and growing social media following to that of the largest out of any other state College Republican organization on Facebook and Instagram (as of 2021).