Republican Party Ousts Steele, Elects Priebus Chairman

BY David Chalian  January 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM EDT

Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Roll Call/Getty Images

It took seven rounds of balloting, but when all the votes were finally tallied Friday the early frontrunner to replace Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee secured the party’s top job.

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus received 97 votes in the final round, followed by former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis with 43 and former Bush Administration official Maria Cino with 28.

“I am completely humbled to have the opportunity to lead this amazing party,” Priebus said after winning the chairmanship.

“Now is the time for the committee to unite. We must come together for our common interest for the betterment of our country and our party.”

“I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you. I told you I will serve in humility and work hard. And I’m going to start working right now as your chairman,” he added.

The new chairman inherits a national party committee coming off of electoral highs they haven’t seen in many years, but also with more than $20 million debt and an atrophied infrastructure that needs to be rehabilitated.

Priebus was a loyal supporter of Steele’s on the committee throughout his embattled tenure. However, as it became clear in the aftermath of the midterm election that Steele was unlikely to have the support to secure a second term due to his fiscal mismanagement and frequent verbal miscues, Priebus began to heed the call from fellow committee members that he seek the chairman’s job.

In Wisconsin, Priebus oversaw a historic election for the GOP. His party picked up the governor’s office, a US Senate seat, and swept to power in the state legislature.

Earlier in the day, Steele conceded what had long appeared to be his inevitable outcome just before the fifth round of voting got underway.

“I thank you for the chairmanship of this party for the two years,” he said to committee members gathered in a ballroom at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Steele added a plea for party unification in his remarks and then urged his supporters to back Cino.

“At this time, I will step aside for others to lead,” he added.

“I understand the challenges that lie ahead of us go well past raising funds. We must know how to spend these funds effectively to aid in redistricting, to support 2011 candidates, to hold a world class convention, and ensure our presidential nominee has the organization in place to beat Barack Obama,” Preiibus said in his victory speech.