First Black RNC Chair Loses

Michael Steele has been replaced by Reince Priebus.

Posted: 01/18/2011 01:32 PM EST

The Republican National Committee today (Jan. 14) elected Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin state GOP, to head up the organization as it heads into a 2012 battle for the Oval Office with President Barack Obama. Priebus had once been a confidante to Michael Steele, the RNC’s first African-American chairman. But today he ousted his former leader and vowed to build greatly on the GOP’s massive victories in November 2010.

Steele had increasingly been an eyesore for the GOP, with his constant bumbling and overseeing of embarrassing scandals, but theories abounded that he remained an important weapon in the Republican Party’s fight to brand itself as inclusive. The RNC is now in $21 million of debt.

Priebus led in the voting throughout today’s election, which goes by rounds until a candidate receives 85 votes. Priebus didn’t win until the seventh round, when he finally beat Saul Anuzis, a Michigan state Republican official, and Maria Cino, a former George W. Bush staffer.

“We have to get on track. Together, we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012,” said Priebus. “The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.”

For his part, Steele dropped out of the race after the second round, when it became clear he had no chance of winning. “I will step aside,” he said, “because I think the party is ready for something different.”

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