Steele Elected First Black RNC Chairman

Posted January 30, 2009 at 3:13pm

Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) won the right on Friday to try to lead the Republican party out of the political wilderness, becoming the first African-American to head the Republican National Committee.

Steele won the RNC chairmanship with 91 votes, six more than the 85 votes necessary. Steele won after six rounds of ballots were cast by 168 RNC members. South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson received 77 votes on the final ballot.

Steele, arguably the most moderate candidate in the bunch, delivered his victory remarks with his trademark gusto.

“We’re going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every commmunity, and we’re going to say to friend and foe alike, we want you to be a part of us, we want you to work with us,” Steele told RNC members. “And for those of you who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over.”

Steele and current RNC Chairman Mike Duncan were considered the frontrunners going into the election, which was held at the national party’s winter meeting at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

Duncan, however, dropped out after the third round of ballots, giving Dawson a temporary lead. When former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell dropped out after the fourth round, he threw his support to Steele. While Blackwell and Steele are black, the Ohioan is a staunch social conservative and Steele is more of a moderate.

Before being elected to statewide office in 2002 on a ticket with Bob Ehrlich (R), Steele ran the Maryland Republican Party. He lost a 2006 Senate bid to then-Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).