Fuentes Was Conscience Of OC GOP

Steven Greenhut: Ever since former OC GOP Chairman Tom Fuentes’ cancer returned, we all knew it was only a matter of time before we heard the bad news. He passed away Friday night after fighting a long battle. Tom and I emailed each other now and again in recent months, comparing notes on the state of the world and on religious matters. Tom was always gracious and kind and I had planned to come visit him on one of my occasional trips to the Southland. I’m sad that I never got to see him one last time, but appreciate the years of friendship and camaraderie we shared even though we disagreed on quite a few issues.

Regardless of whether one agreed with Tom on most things or not, there is little question he was the conscience of the Orange County Republican Party. I still remembered his recalcitrance when the Arnold Schwarzenegger juggernaut was heading toward Sacramento. Tom issued warnings and was largely ignored but proved to be right. Schwarzenegger was just another in a long line of power-seeking phonies. Tom always did put principle over politics. He played politics and played it well, but we all knew that his core issues were non-negotiable. He was the leader of a political party and a gentleman, so he rarely berated an official in public. But everyone knew where he stood — and he stood like a rock. He had a long-term view of the party and of the conservative movement.

On a personal level, Tom often offered me advice and counsel. He was accessible, blunt-spoken and kind. I will miss his friendship. I recall once a trip we took with a small group to Rosarito Beach, Mexico. We stopped in Tijuana at the home of a family Tom had been helping for years. He was a good man and not just a political animal.When he left the party’s leadership, many of the big-money givers were happy. But as the local and state party has moved further from any guiding principle, so, too, has the party increasingly fallen on hard times. Too bad the party didn’t heed many of his lessons.

I’ll miss Tom’s friendship, his leadership and his rock-solid principles.

MAY 20, 2012

 



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