Steele, first African-American to head Republican party
Washington, Jan 31:Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor, Michael Steele, has become the first African American to head the Republican National Committee (RNC).
According to CBS News, Steele emerged from a crowded field on Friday, Jan 30 to become the chairman of the RNC. "It's time for something completely different. And, we're going to bring it to them," Steele said after his victory.
Later, he called his election 'a remarkable moment.' "We've been misdefined as a party that doesn't care" about minorities and average Americans, Steele said. "Nothing can be further from the truth."
The most moderate candidate in the field, Steele defeated the more conservative Katon Dawson, the head of the South Carolina GOP, in the sixth round of balloting. He took 91 votes, six more than he needed to win.
Several RNC members called Steele's win a 'historic moment' for the party. Steele vowed to "cede no ground to anyone on matters of principle" in his victory speech. He said that Republicans "stand proud as the conservative party of the United States."
Among those Steele defeated in previous rounds were current RNC chair Mike Duncan, Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis, and former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell, who threw his support behind Steele after dropping out of the race after the fourth round of balloting today.
"I believe that the next chairman must inspire hope," Blackwell said upon endorsing Steele, a fellow African-American. Republicans have repeatedly expressed concern over the future of their party in the wake of Barack Obama's victory in the presidential race, with some suggesting the party has to find ways to reach out to voters who do not traditionally gravitate toward the GOP.
In 2003, Steele became the first African-American elected to statewide office in Maryland, when he won the Lt. Governor's race. He is the current Chairman of GOPAC, a national PAC dedicated to electing Republican candidates in state and local elections.
Born in 1958 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Steele was raised in Washington, DC. He spent three years as a seminarian in the Order of St. Augustine preparing for the priesthood before deciding to pursue a law career. He received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Steele ran for Senate in Maryland in 2006 but lost to Democrat Ben Cardin.