WASHINGTON — Ronald Reagan swept many California conservatives with him to Washington when he became president, and some never left. Several remain in Congress, have attained key committee posts, and still proclaim themselves “Reaganauts.”
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“I was a proud ‘Reaganaut.’ I still am,” House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier said Monday.
Dreier is one of five California Republicans who rode Reagan’s coattails to first-time House victories in 1980, the year Reagan was elected president. Four of the five ousted Democratic incumbents that year, and two remain in Congress: Dreier and Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The timing was perfect and the issues were perfect and without those I never could have won in a two-to-one Democratic district. Ronald Reagan was a perfect match for San Diego,” said Hunter, who used a photo of himself and Reagan in his campaign literature.
53 new GOP House members in 1980
A total of 53 Republicans won new House seats in 1980.
Two other Republicans in California’s House delegation worked in the Reagan White House before winning their congressional seats.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was an assistant press secretary in Reagan’s first two runs for president and a White House speech writer from 1981 to 1987. Rep. Christopher Cox was a senior associate counsel for Reagan from 1986 to 1988.
Rohrabacher and Cox both were elected to Congress in 1988. Cox is now chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee while Rohrabacher chairs a subcommittee of the House Science Committee.
“Ronald Reagan taught us to have strong beliefs but to be pleasant at the same time, whereas so many people aren’t that way,” Rohrabacher said. “We had a sense that we were part of something.”