A pen used by former president Richard Nixon during his White House years brought $35, but an autographed picture of Elizabeth Taylor Warner went for just $12.25. And the bidding for an hour's mime performance by Jubal the Clown died at $7.
The take from a recent auction sponsored by the Fairfax County Young Republicans Club totaled only $1,758, about enough to pay for one computerized list of voters. But Young Republicans are not discouraged easily, particularly not this year. After last month's elections in Fairfax, the county YRs are feeling renewed confidence in the state of the republic.
"For the Republican Party of Fairfax it was a glorious year," reads the December newsletter of the Fairfax YRs, the Grassroots Chronicle. Republicans won eight of the county's 10 House of Delegates seats, gained two new seats on the county Board of Supervisors and held onto the sheriff's office, vacated by controversial Republican James T. Swinson.
Of the six members of the Fairfax YR club who ran for office in November, five were winners. Wayne Huggins was elected sheriff. Tom Davis was elected Mason District Supervisor. Jack Rust, John Buckley and Larry Pratt were elected to the House of delegates. The only YR loser was John Thoburn, who ran for the state Senate against former majority leader Adelard L. Brault.
"I'd have to say we are pleased with our showing this year -- even exuberant," said Scot Faulkner, the president of the YR club, which is less than a year old and already the second largest in Virginia.
The Young Republicans organization, like its partisan counterpart, the Young Democrats, baits its recruitment hook with two all-American favorite pastimes -- politics and partying, not necessarily in that order.
"In order to bring people in who many times have 12 to 15-hour-a-day jobs, we start off with a social-type think like last summer's swimming party. Then the next function, we'll bring up serious business," said Faulkner, who works as an aide to Rep. Robert McClory (R-Ill.).
"So many young people in their 20s and 30s who work on the Hill go home to the suburbs and are not interested in local politics. We try and use our contacts, our friendship network to let them know there is a place for them in Virginia as well as on the Hill."
Since March, membership has risen in the club from seven to more than 100. The YRs like to think their friendliness and political kinship have much to do with that growth, but in moments of candor they will give some credit elsewhere.
"Jimmy Carter has made it respectable to be a Republican again. They're coming out of the closet," said Kathy Royce ("like Rolls") YR national vice chairman of the Northern Virginia region and a 1971 graduate of Wakefield High School in Arlington.
In the wake of Watergate, YR members admit, the Republican Party did not exactly thrive. Young Republican clubs from Fairfax to Fairbanks, Alaska died quietly. But during the last few years the clubs -- and the Republicans -- have begun a comeback that party leaders are predicting will lead to future dominance.
"There's nothing the Republican Party can't do here now," said Nicholas Panuzio, chairman of the Fairfax GOP.
Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, reaches the same conclusion in his recently published book, "Virginia Votes 1975-1978." Sabato has examined each of the state's major elections during those four years, as well as the national races. Democrats, says Sabato, should "be prepared for significant Republican gains in the legislature over the next decade."
In his first chapter, Sabato writes, "the staid old Commonwealth has moved with surprising speed from a classification as one-party Democrat to a new label of two-party competitive, Republican leaning." Much of that Republican strength has come from the "mushrooming suburbs," which have been the "mainstay of recent Republican victories in Virginia," Sabato continues.
The Young Republicans of Fairfax don't need Sabato to tell them where their strength lies. Since March, members have been working with the Republican Party in the county, licking stamps, working telephone banks and canvassing neighborhoods -- trying to tap that Republican support.
The auction, held in the Eisenhower Room of Washington's Capitol Hill Club, was an attempt to pay for some of those stamps. The items sold were donated and a professional auctioneer, Van Eitel, volunteered his efforts, which were considerable at times. For a pendant bearing the congressional seal and the signature of Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas), Eitel had to use his sharpest spiel to get $5.50. Tea for two at Twigs, with YR auction chairwoman Muphen Whitney, could tempt no bidders to go higher than $8.
The hot items were a weekend for two at Ocean City, Md. ($131.50), an autographed picture of Ronald Regan ($70) and a picture of the Capitol on some Christmas night past, snapped and signed by Tennessee's Sen. Howard Baker ($47.25).
Watching the auction from a corner chair placed below an oil painting of Mamie Eisenhower was Harold Miller, who lost his bid for the Fairfax sheriff's office in the Republican primary last spring. Miller was a member of the Fairfax Young Republicans in 1972, before the club disbanded.
"When I was in the club we suffered from the Watergate stigma. The entire Republican Party suffered some credibility loss. With care, these younger members will bring the standards back up," Miller said.