Can Michael Steele lead GOP out of woods? Republican National Committee picks first black chair

WASHINGTON – Blue-state moderate Michael Steele beat four more hardline GOP candidates Friday to become the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. “As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome,” said the 50-year-old Steele, who was a Roman Catholic seminarian before going into politics in Prince Georges County, Md., bordering Washington. Steele quickly pledged to break the current mold of the GOP as a southern and southwestern stronghold and reach out to reclaim the party’s former base in New York and the Northeast. “To my friends in the Northeast, get ready baby. It is time to turn it on and work, and work to do what we always do well, and that is win,” said Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and failed Senate candidate. Steele had his moment of fame at the Republican National Convention last year when he coined the “Drill Baby Drill” chant that was taken up by John McCain and Sarah Palin to push for more off-shore drilling. Steele, whose selection came just 10 days after the inauguration of the first African-American President, beat South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson 91-77 on the sixth round of voting. Reigning RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and a second African-American candidate, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, had withdrawn on earlier ballots. In New York, the Rev. Al Sharpton congratulated Steele while stressing the need for more civil rights activism. With both parties now headed by African-Americans in Steele and President Obama, “we… [Read full story]

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