This article originally appeared on USAToday.com on January 3, 2011.
Michael Steele, challengers face off in GOP debate
By: Catalina Camia
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele will face off today against the four people trying to oust him from his job, in a prelude to what will likely be a contentious election.
Politico reports that 88 of the 168-member committee have decided not to support Steele, the GOP’s first African-American chairman who is under fire for his financial management.
The 90-minute debate, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and the conservative website Daily Caller, will be aired on C-SPAN starting at 1 p.m. ET.
Gentry Collins, who was political director of the RNC under Steele, dropped out of the chairman’s race on Sunday.
Collins had called for a leadership change at the committee, which will play a crucial role in raising money and getting out the vote for the party’s eventual nominee against President Obama in 2012.
In a scathing resignation letter from the RNC, Collins said the committee’s $15 million line of credit was tapped out and there would be unpaid bills “likely to add millions” to that debt.
He did not endorse a candidate, but had praise for the two women and two men who are trying to deny Steele a second two-year term. The RNC will pick its next chairperson during its winter meeting Jan. 12-15 in Washington, D.C.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, is considered the front-runner in the race. Politico says Priebus is the first choice of 32 RNC members.
Also running are former Missouri GOP chairwoman Ann Wagner; ex-Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, who lasted through five rounds of balloting in the race that Steele won in 2009; and former deputy RNC chairwoman Maria Cino, who has the backing of top Republicans such as Dick Cheney and Ed Gillespie.
Steele, who surprised the party when he announced his re-election bid last month, admitted he had “stumbled” as party chairman but said he wanted to move forward because the RNC had unfinished business. While Steele has taken some credit for helping Republicans make gains in Congress and as governors in the 2010 elections, he and the party have a larger target in mind next year: Barack Obama and the White House.
“The worst thing we can do now is to look backwards,” Steele said in his announcement, according to The New York Times. “Who you elect as chairman will speak volumes about our willingness to truly be the party of Lincoln.”
A group that opposes abortion rights interviewed all the RNC candidates on social issues. To see where the candidates stand, check out the Susan B. Anthony List.