Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele announced today he will seek a second term, according to a statement provided to Bloomberg News.
“Our work is not done, and my commitment has not ended,” Steele said in a statement to committee members, which was provided by a person close to the issue. Steele announced his decision during a private conference call with RNC members.
Steele’s decision sets up a battle over the chairmanship, as several other contenders have announced they are running to lead the party.
In the statement, Steele defended his record while acknowledging that he has made mistakes. “I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings,” the statement said. “No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda.”
“Who you elect as our next chairman will speak volumes about our willingness to truly be the party of Lincoln,” Steele said.
His tenure, which began after President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, has been marked by a series of comments that drew criticism and by internal grousing over the committee’s finances, including spending on the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa.
Steele, the organization’s first black chairman, had been selected to help recast his party’s image after two cycles of major Republican losses at the ballot box.
“Steele got elected because we wanted a great communicator to put up against their great communicator,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist. “What we needed was a great manager.”
Pressure has been building on Steele to give up the party chairmanship as he lost support from key allies in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party and Steele’s former legal counsel, announced he would run to lead the national party. Priebus was a Steele ally, and his candidacy would likely peel support away from a re-election bid. He has the backing of Henry Barbour, a nephew of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former RNC chairman.
In November, Republican political director Gentry Collins resigned with a letter criticizing Steele’s management of the national committee, saying fundraising failures led to some close Republican losses in the last election.
A handful of other contenders have already announced their bids, including Maria Cino, a former official under President George W. Bush who has the backing of former national party Chairman Ed Gillespie and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Others include former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and Ann Wagner of Missouri, a former RNC co-chairwoman. Norm Coleman, a former Minnesota senator, is also considering a bid.
In July, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, criticized as “wildly inaccurate” a comment by Steele that the conflict in Afghanistan, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “was a war of Obama’s choosing.”
In an interview with GQ magazine in 2009 Steele called abortion an “individual choice,” sparking an outcry among the Republican Party’s social conservative base. Steele later clarified that he was anti-abortion.
Shortly after he was elected, Steele said he wanted to apply the party’s principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” The comment became fodder for comedians and critics given the Republican Party didn’t have a single black member in the House or Senate at the time.
Steele also faced criticism after financial reports showed the party paid almost $2,000 for meals at a West Hollywood, California, nightclub that features topless dancers.