Steele Named GOP's First Black Chair

Ex-Maryland lieutenant governor elected to lead RNC

WASHINGTON -- The GOP has elected former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

After five rounds of voting, Steele was up against South Carolina's Republican chairman, Katon Dawson. Steele won 91 of the 168 votes to win the sixth round. Candidates need 85 votes to be elected.

Steele's selection means the heads of both the Democratic and Republican national committees are local. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was appointed to head the Democratic National Committee.

Steele is the first black RNC chair. He was the most moderate candidate in the field and was considered an outsider because he's not an RNC member. He beat back four challengers, including incumbent Mike Duncan, who was forced to withdraw from the field midway through the balloting in the face of a lack of support.

Steele takes over a beleaguered GOP as Republicans seek to rebound from back-to-back defeats in national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House.

"As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome," said Steele, the most moderate candidate in the field and considered an outsider because he's not a committee member.

In a brief acceptance speech, the new GOP chairman struck a tone of inclusiveness.

"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be a part of us, we want you to with be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," Steele said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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