Sen. Thomas H. Kuchel
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Kuchel seems to have had a very complex (some might say, “dysfunctional”) relationship with fellow Republicans. In 1958, he supported conservative Senator William F. Knowland’s attempt to oust liberal governor Goodwin J. Knight in the Republican primary. In 1962, he refused to endorse former Vice President Richard Nixon in the gubernatorial race against Pat Brown. By 1964, Kuchel rebuffed Knowland when asked to endorse the Republicans’ conservative presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Gov. Edmund "Pat Brown
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Following the crushing electoral defeat of Goldwater by Lyndon Johnson, there was discussion afoot that Republicans might not have much of a future—and they surely wouldn’t if they continued to follow the “now-discredited” path of Goldwater conservatism.
Back in California, the supposedly disheartened conservatives seemed to be anything but. In fact, Holmes Tuttle, Henry Salvatori, and other conservative Californians with deep pockets, believed that while they had lost the presidential contest, they had perhaps uncovered a “diamond in the rough” in actor Ronald Reagan.
The California Poll of August 11, 1965 concluded that:
…if Kuchel were running against Brown now, the Senator would be preferred over the Governor by a margin approaching two to one…Today’s Poll highlights a dilemma for Republican leaders. Should they back Kuchel who has the best chance of winning the governorship, facing the fact that if he wins in November of 1966 he would have to resign his U.S. Senate seat before taking office and give still-Governor Brown a chance to appoint a Democrat to fill his unexpired two years? Or should they back Reagan…on the gamble that the governorship could be won without Kuchel, thus placing Republicans in all three top state offices?