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A True-Blue Conservative Chooses to Break Ranks

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THE WALLS AND CURIO SHELVES IN ANN Stone’s colonial brick home in Alexandria, Va., look like a celebration of the GOP: Goldwater bracelets, signed photos of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, Dole for President buttons, a Christmas card from the Bushes. In her driveway, her Jeep Wagoneer bears a red-white-and-blue bumper sticker that reads: BUSH-QLAYLE ’92. But Stone, a longtime conservative with a capital C, has been drawing cries of “traitor” from Republican bastions because of the green-and-white sticker on her Mercedes-Benz: REPUBLICANS FOR CHOICE.

Though she still intends to vote for George Bush in the fall, Stone is helping to lead the rebellion against the 12-year-old plank in the COP platform that calls for a constitutional amendment to protect “unborn children.” She has hit the talk-show circuit and, more recently, taken her Republicans for Choice truck to rallies in major cities on the way to the GOP convention in Houston. There, Stone has argued—without success—that the majority of Americans favor a woman’s right to choose. If she fails, as is likely, she says, “We have the numbers, and we have the issue. We are not going away. We will win in 1996.”

Stone, 40, is not simply blowing with this year’s winds of change. “My instinct and gut was always pro-choice,” she says. As a Republican, she naturally opposes government interference in private lives. For years, though, she had focused her political energy on supporting Reaganomics and fighting communism, breaking her silence on abortion only in 1989, when she thought the Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade. She then founded Republicans for Choice, and the idea caught on. After two years, Republicans for Choice has 100,000 members and has raised close to $2.5 million, some of which has gone to pro-choice candidates and some to fund the platform fight.

Stone came by her conservative credentials at an early age. She grew up in Stratford. Conn., “near the poverty level.” Stone was the youngest of four children—her sister and two brothers were 17 to 19 years older. “They all thought they were my parents,” she jokes. When she was 4 her father, insurance executive Jack Wesche, died of a heart attack. Five years later her mother, Edith. who died in 1980, married Melvin Wakeley, who died last year. It was around that time that she got her first political lesson. “[My older sister and I] were watching a story about a teenage boy shot going over the Berlin Wall who bled to death,” she recalls. “My sister explained to me about communism. I thought it was terrible.”

In 1970 Stone went to George Washington University in D.C. on a scholarship from local Republicans. While her classmates marched against the Vietnam War (she backed it even though she thought it was badly handled), she joined the College Republicans and began dating fellow member Roger Stone, whom she married in 1974.

After learning the direct mail business from conservative fund-raiser Richard Viguerie, Stone, at 29, started her own business, Ann E.W. Stone & Associates, a direct-response marketing firm that has raised money for conservative and other causes. She is a self-made millionaire who now owns a second home, in Key Biscayne, Fla., and a beach house in Delaware. During the ’70s and ’80s, Stone took an active role in the elections of such Republican candidates as Reagan. Bush, Jack Kemp and Jesse Helms, while her husband became a prominent Republican political consultant whose firm now works for the Bush campaign. Two years ago she and her husband divorced (they have no children), having grown apart to the point, she says, “we’d go to the video store and rent different videos and go to different parts of the house to watch them.” She now lives alone in the Alexandria home she bought with her husband in 1980.

Even before the convention, she had a tough fight with fellow Republicans. Robert Dornan, GOP Congressman from California and an old friend, accuses Stone and others who have come out of the pro-choice closet of being a “handful of upper-class Republican women” who are “hurling” the party. And many pro-choice activists originally looked upon Stone with suspicion because of her past efforts on behalf of antichoice candidates such as Jesse Helms. “I’ve had to survive attacks from the right and the left,” Stone acknowledges, while maintaining a natural optimism. “I’m the kind of person who gets in a rowboat to go alter Moby Dick and takes along the tartar sauce.”


LINDA KRAMER in Alexandria