Several veterans groups announced Wednesday that they are launching a new campaign “to bury this Legislature with letters, phone calls and petitions” demanding that former war protester Tom Hayden be expelled from the Assembly.
In addition, Orange County Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), continuing the verbal assault on Hayden he began three months ago, said at a Capitol press conference he will introduce a resolution in January declaring that Hayden should not be allowed to hold his Assembly seat because he “aided and abetted” North Vietnam “at a time we were at war with that enemy.”
Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who has called Ferguson a “retired Rambo . . . having a mid-life crisis,” said Wednesday that Ferguson has “no grounds whatsoever” to demand that he be ousted.
“That is the concern of the voters of my district who have elected me twice,” Hayden said. “It is not the concern of a right-wing legislator from Orange County. . . . Suffice it to say I’m not particularly worried about it.”
Ferguson, 62, is a retired Marine Corps colonel serving his first term in the Assembly. He called Hayden a traitor last May during an emotional speech regarding a resolution honoring Vietnam War veterans.
Ferguson said Wednesday that he hopes the petition drive will persuade Assembly members to support a resolution to oust Hayden. He said he does not know how many of his 79 Assembly colleagues now support his effort.
“I’m just a Marine who did 26 years and three wars. I’m very emotionally involved in this thing,” he said.
Hayden, 45, who met with North Vietnamese officials during the mid-1960s, has been the target of previous petition drives and letter-writing campaigns. But it would be a first in anti-Hayden efforts if Ferguson introduces a resolution calling for his ouster based on a seldom-invoked article of the California Constitution that provides that anyone “who advocates the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities” can not hold state office.
The latest anti-Hayden petition drive is being spearheaded by Mickey Conroy, director of the California War Veterans for Justice and president of the Armed Forces Retirees Assn. of California, both ultraconservative organizations based in Santa Ana.
Conroy, who has long been involved in efforts to get Hayden out of the Assembly, said the War Veterans membership consists of anyone who receives his mailers.
Decision Being Appealed
Conroy filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court last year seeking to have Hayden removed from office. Judge Charles Jones ruled in March that the suit was groundless. Conroy is appealing.
“Apparently nothing will be done unless Californians show their outrage in numbers that politicians understand best--potential election results,” Conroy said Wednesday.
Conroy said veterans organizations are a powerful political force and that the issue of Hayden’s seat could be “potentially explosive in its implications for the 1986 elections.”
In addition to Conroy’s organization, groups represented at the press conference included the Marine Corps League, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the California Department Commanders Veterans Council, the Retired Officers Assn. of California and the Fleet Reserve Assn.
But two of the largest veterans’ groups, the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), were notably absent. So was AmVets of World War II.
Disabled American Veterans has a longstanding policy against involvement in partisan political issues. American Legion spokesman Andy Solanti said that organization had not considered the issue and had not been asked to consider it.
“Right now, we have no comment,” Solanti said.
AmVets spokesman Joseph Lopez said the group tries not to become involved in petition drives.