Club History

The Honnold Library of the Claremont Colleges includes, in a special collection, Leisa Bronson's detailed history of our club as of 1989, which stands in the background of many comments here.

The club, as the Claremont Democratic Club, was founded on January 14, 1953 at Griswold's Inn. Helen Myers, then organization chair at the L.A. County Democratic Central Committee, assisted at this meeting. Stephen Zetterberg, who had run against Richard Nixon in the 33rd Congressional District in 1948, was temporary chair. The California Democratic Council was also founded in 1953, as a progressive organization committed to the formation and nurturing of clubs like ours. In the 1950s, as now, there were campaign finance needs, and the club launched a successful "Dialing for Dollars" program, raising more money than some Congressional districts.

In 1958, when Pat Brown was elected governor, the Democrat George Kasen won in our 33rd Congressional district. During the 1960s, however, the Vietnam War caused deep divisions in the country, affecting the state's Democratic clubs. The CDC was opposed to the war; and some clubs, but not this one, quit the CDC.

The club emerged from these battles and gave useful support to a variety of candidates during the 1970s, including Jim Lloyd, who won the 33rd Congressional seat in 1974. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the club fell into stagnation and demoralization. This was aggravated by the Republican emergence at the national level with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. His coattails caused Lloyd to lose his seat in 1980 to the then youthful person who would win yet again in 2000. To make matters worse, Claremont Democrats suffered from a redrawing of district lines that favored the rival party.

The club was revived in the mid-1980s, largely through the efforts of Sandy Baldonado, Mary Poplin, and Sandy Hester. In 1985, a few months after the death of Jerry Voorhis, the club changed it's name to the Jerry Voorhis Claremont Democratic Club in his honor. There were well-attended awards dinners in the mid-1980s, and the club supported a variety of candidates. Later it was active in the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, working from its headquarters at the time on Arrow Highway. The club has engaged in many successful fund-raising events, with Helen Myers playing a central role. In the early 1990s it supported the efforts of Al Wachtel to win our Congressional seat, and in 1996 it supported the candidacy of David Levering, a long-time professor of history at Cal Poly, Pomona and a long-time club member. Neither he in 1996 nor Janice Nelson in 1998 could outmatch the well-funded incumbent.

Parkes Riley was president from 2000 to 2005. During all these years, the club maintained booths at the Fourth of July celebrations and the Village Venture; and during election years, Liz Davis led a voter registration project on weekends at the Montclair Plaza.

During the last days of the 2000 campaign, with much involvement by Dwain Kaiser, Pat Sullivan, and others, the club maintained a headquarters in the Old School House. There was great enthusiasm for Al Gore and local candidates, once more including Janice Nelson for Congress.

The club again maintained a headquarters in the Old School House for the elections of 2002. It put much energy behind the candidacies of Patrick Smith for state Assembly and Marjorie Musser Mikels for Congress. Regrettably, though, the 2002 election results reflected an adverse gerrymandering of our districts after the 2000 census.

The 2004 elections saw the club sustaining its most ambitious headquarters project to date: Renting space for five months at 879 East Arrow Highway, on the border between Claremont and Pomona. Dwain and Joann Kaiser managed; Mike Davis coordinated volunteers; Merrill Ring, as club treasurer, dealt with the complexities of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The club became a beehive of activity for candidates including John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Cynthia Matthews (running for Congress), and Dan Harden (running for state Assembly). During much of this period, the headquarters provided office space for Matthews, Harden, and Norma Torres (running for Pomona City Council). The Matthews campaign generated unusual excitement, with an LA drivetime talk show praising her for raising questions about immigration; and she was able to get 42.8% of the vote, compared the long-term incumbent's 53.6%. For her and, even more, for Kerry and especially Boxer, Claremont voted solidly Democratic, continuing a trend of recent years.