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Steele Surprise Shakes Up RNC Race

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Another former Steele ally, Gentry Collins, created a splash in November when he resigned as political director of the RNC. He wrote a letter detailing problems at the RNC during Steele’s tenure, and on Monday he launched his own bid for chairman. He cited his experience as a political operative in Iowa and at the RNC as assets. He announced that Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, who announced last week that he’ll run for a second term, and Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, who recently abandoned the idea that he would run for chairman himself, are supporting him.

Former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner and former Republican National Convention CEO Maria Cino have also announced they’ll run for chairwoman of the RNC. With Steele’s announcement, it seems the crowded field may be complete. Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan seems less likely to run at this point, as does former South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson, who finished second to Steele in 2009.

Steele’s entry in the race also means former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, now a leader of the American Action Network, will not get in despite early flirtation with a bid.

Four of the potential candidates — Anuzis, Wagner, Collins and Duncan — participated in a public forum hosted by FreedomWorks, a tea-party-affiliated nonprofit, and the Republican National Conservative Caucus, a group of 26 RNC members led by Indiana Committeeman James Bopp Jr. on Dec. 1. More participated in private interviews with RNC members the following morning.

The next test will come Jan. 3 when candidates will participate in an afternoon debate at the National Press Club. Anuzis, Cino, Priebus and Wagner have confirmed they’ll be there, according to Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller, who are sponsoring the debate. People who register at rncdebate.org can submit questions for the debate.

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