Conservative Hollywood Activist to Challenge GOP Rep. Paul Cook

Image: Conservative Hollywood Activist to Challenge GOP Rep. Paul Cook Rodney Lee Conover

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 03:57 PM

By John Gizzi

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With some Republican House members under fire from tea party-backed insurgents, one of the more intriguing primary contests is between freshman Rep. Paul Cook of California and Rodney Lee Conover, a writer and longtime conservative activist in the entertainment community.

Cook was elected in California's Eighth Congressional District in 2012 with the backing of outgoing Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis. A former state assemblyman, Cook has generally voted a conservative line. His district encompasses much of California's Inland Empire, the area east of Los Angeles that has been a Republican stronghold despite California's trending blue.

By voting for the continuing House resolution that funded Obamacare, Cook, 70, opened himself up to dissatisfaction from the right and a challenge in the June primary.

"Along with the funding of Obamacare and voting to cut military pensions, the congressman also opposed [California Republican] Rep. Tom McClintock's bill to rein in the excesses of the National Security Agency," Conover, 54, told Newsmax.

"These are critical issues, and he's on the wrong side of all of them," Conover said.

A native of Illinois farm country and a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, the young Conover followed the trail blazed by fellow Midwesterners Ronald Reagan and Sonny Bono and moved to Southern California.

"My dreams were waiting for me there," he said.

For more than a quarter-century, Conover has been a motivating force behind conservative talk radio and the small-but-determined conservative ranks within the entertainment community.

Conover wrote for Rush Limbaugh's radio program and for other conservative talk show hosts. He has edited and ghost-written books, had parts in various films, and has been a vigorous speaker and organizer for the tea party in the Golden State.

At one point, Conover found himself the subject of an IRS audit during the Clinton administration. Recalling how he and his accountant were going through his financial records during the grueling process, Conover said the accountant "pointed to my W-2 form, which read 'The Rush Limbaugh Show,' and he said, 'That's why you're being audited.'"

Conover was also one of the early members of the "Friends of Abe" (referring to Republican Abe Lincoln), the so-called "center-right showbiz support group" whose members are conservative Republican entertainers.

Although the group has recently been written about in such national press outlets as the New York Times and although the names of many "Friends of Abe" are now known, several members have made it clear they fear a strike from the IRS.

Under California's French-style electoral system, all candidates regardless of party will appear on the same ballot in the June primary, and the top two vote-getters will meet in a November runoff.

By running against Cook — who has the full support of the state and national GOP establishment — Conover freely admits he has "my work cut out for me."

But with tea party and libertarian GOP groups throughout the sprawling Eighth District, Conover says he can count on a grassroots base to boost his candidacy.

"I have a vision that I feel strongly will resonate," he said. "I want this generation to pick up where the greatest generation left off."

John Gizzi is chief political correspondent and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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