Ryan Lees
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On January 14th, Michael Steele will defend his seat as the Republican National Committee’s Chairman. The jockeying that will determine the next chairman must involve an extra consideration. Regarding the new and powerful element now practicing conservative politics known as the Tea Party, their identity and message should be used to measure the candidates.

The RNC is traditionally a vehicle with which conservative candidates find help in getting elected. Its size and position have rendered it a machine, like so many other organizations in D.C. It is considered establishment and because of this, it is difficult to get new perspectives that guide this very influential and powerful organization.

Those who are promoted through the vast ranks speak the same language, have the same perspectives on party and march to the drum beat required to advance through state and into national Republican positions.

The Tea Party, arguably the compelling factor in the midterm election landslide, has a philosophy directly counter to that type of management and to respect this, the next chairman must be as close to an outlier as possible, unless the RNC would like to lose more control to the Tea Party and inspire more dissatisfaction with their operations. It does not appear that any of the front-runners fit this bill.

The serious contenders are Saul Anuzis, Ann Wagner, Maria Cino, Michael Steele and Reince Priebus.

Wagner is the former Ambassador to Luxembourg from 2005-2009. She was appointed by G.W. Bush. She ran Roy Blunt’s senate campaign, which was held as an exemplar, is the former Co-chair of the RNC and the former Chair of the Missouri Republican Party.

Maria Cino is described merely as a “workhorse” outside of the spotlight, yet she was the RNC Deputy Chair from 2003-2004, has been employed by the RNC since 1981, and was the RNCC Executive Director from 1993-1997. This seems more establishment than mere worker bee.

Michael Steele is the current chairman, whose success is debatable. He oversaw some scandal and presided over a turbulent RNC that lost money; yet he did not undermine the midterms, which were a landslide. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland under Bob Erhlich from 2002-2006, lost a run for the U.S. Senate to Ben Cardin in 2006, ran GOPAC and moved into the Chairmanship of the RNC.

Saul Anuzis is described as the most unlikely ‘company man,’ yet he has hearty Republican credentials. He was the chair of the Michigan Republican Party from 2005-2009, ran for the RNC chair in 2009, worked for American Solutions (Newt Gingrich) and headed the Michigan Senate Campaign Committee. In addition to this, he runs several initiatives for the RNC on behalf of Steele.

In 2007 Priebus was elected as the Chair to the Wisconsin Republican Party, and to his credit, the state was returned to conservative columns during his tenure, at least Republican; this included the entire state legislature and the Governor’s mansion.

Where is the candidate that reflects the anti-establishment vote that just took place? Every one of the candidates has been in the ranks for more than a decade, some for three. There is a former U.S. Ambassador, the current chairman, state party chairs, former deputy chair, and a perennial RNC Chair candidate.

The candidate that comes closest to the grassroots momentum that won the elections is Reince Priebus of Wisconsin. At least Priebus has only been indoctrinated by his state party. All these others are accustomed to the centralized, bureaucratic operations that were rejected during the elections.

Though it is a qualified endorsement, Priebus is the least contradictory of the candidates when regarding the messages from the midterm election. Hopefully, whoever wins the caucus is sincere about what every candidate has promised: listening to the people.

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Ryan Lees

Ryan Lees is the Director of Media Outreach and a Program Coordinator at the Patrick Henry Center.