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Roll Call

Possible Rival Says He Has No Confidence in RNC’s Steele

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call

Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy is strongly considering a bid to replace Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and on Wednesday he unleashed a scathing critique of Steele’s leadership.

“I think at some point someone has to step up and say the emperor has no clothes. I’m more than willing to do that,” Healy told Roll Call. “I think I can give the RNC what it needs over the next two years. I don’t have any confidence that the current management can get it done.”

Healy, 53, chairman of the Nutmeg State’s Republican Party since January 2007, has worked in media and politics for decades. He is the current chairman of the RNC’s Northeast Chairs.

He said that last week’s GOP pickups in Congress and statehouses across the nation occurred in spite of Steele, not because of him.

“There were a lot of commitments that were not kept. That left a lot of states short, and that prevented greater gains,” Healy said, adding that Steele’s “nutty and careless statements” and financial mismanagement scared away prospective donors and ultimately left the RNC’s finances in ruin.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye declined to discuss the upcoming chairman election but highlighted the 45 million volunteer voter contacts the RNC made in 2009, up from 31.5 million in 2008. The RNC reached nearly 900,000 voters in Connecticut and transferred $326,700 to Healy’s state party, including a $27,600 transfer currently in process, Heye said.

But Healy blasted Steele’s leadership as being too self-focused, suggesting that Steele’s much-hyped “Fire Pelosi” national bus tour was “nothing more than a re-election campaign” that wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have helped candidates and state parties.

“I think we’ve had a little too much self-promotion over the last two years at the expense of the RNC and the Republican Party,” Healy said.

Heye noted that Healy hopped aboard that 48-state bus tour when it traveled through Connecticut.

“The Fire Pelosi bus tour was a way to bring the message outside of Washington and directly to voters in 48 states, including voters in Connecticut, where Healy got on the bus,” Heye said.

The RNC was in the red based on its most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. As of Oct. 13, the committee reported $3.8 million on hand with debts exceeding $4.5 million.

The RNC will elect a chairman in mid-January. Steele is expected to seek a second term but has yet to confirm his future plans. Steele has an inner circle of advisers helping him make the decision, the same group that defended Steele from harsh critiques on RNC spending and some of his verbal gaffes over his term.

Republicans now have a coordinated effort under way to find a Steele replacement.

RNC national committeeman Henry Barbour, the nephew of Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour, is playing a key role in the discussion. The Mississippi Republican is not expected to run, but contenders include Katon Dawson from South Carolina, Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, former Nevada Gov. Robert List, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

Dawson has been among Steele’s most vocal critics, and now Healy is following suit.

Borrowing an analogy frequently used by President Barack Obama about who is in charge of driving the nation’s agenda, Healy said the question is “whether based on the last two years, someone should be given the keys to the car for another two years.”

“Right now, the car is a wreck. It’s totaled,” Healy added.

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