IRVINE, Calif.—Like just about everyone else in California Republican politics, the guests at the Western Conservative Political Action Conference here who attended its tribute to Tom Fuentes on Saturday evening know that the former Orange County GOP chairman and longtime conservative stalwart has been battling cancer. But they also know that the feisty Fuentes still gets out to conservative and party functions and says what’s on his mind, in no uncertain terms.
In accepting the Western CPAC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Fuentes, who turned 63 the next day, did not disappoint.
“Here’s someone who should be fighting for his life,” said 1992 Republican U.S. Senate nominee Bruce Herschensohn, who introduced Fuentes, “and, instead, he’s fighting for the causes he believes in.”
Flanked by his family and facing a hushed audience of fellow conservatives at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Fuentes cited the old adage about feeling as though he’d died and went to heaven. In his words, “Imagine, if you will, a great room full of conservative friends, beautiful ladies, gentle harp music, a flowing bar, the American Flag on display, patriotic Boy Scouts, and, not a Liberal in sight! For me, that is paradise!” And at his tribute, he found his paradise—the flowing bar, surrounded by friends and beautiful women. And there was not one liberal in sight.
Fuentes stressed the importance of gathering and sharing “common values and ideas,” but expressed sadness that “our nation and our state have gone astray.” While referring to the illness that has slowed his pace considerably, the former GOP leader of America’s largest Republican County added that he still works for what he believes in through the telephone and e-mail.
What is now critical, he urged the Western CPAC, is that “we not allow RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] nor the limousine liberals to take over our party or our cause.”
Asked before his remarks whether he would do as in other recent appearances and name the names of Republicans who have tried to dilute the conservative cause, such as former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some of the wealthy GOPers whom Fuentes has fought, the former party boss told HUMAN EVENTS with a chuckle: “I may not name names—just groups of people.”
Along with close friend Herschensohn, Fuentes was hailed as a leader and fighter for conservatism by other guests such as Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R.-Calif.) and Tom Price (R.-Ga.), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. While the Orange County man may have his health challenges, it was evident from his remarks and the reaction from the audience that Tom Fuentes’ opinions and principles still ring vibrantly.