A mere ten days after the Republican landslide victories in the midterm elections, GOP Chair Michael Steele is challenged for leadership of the party.
Saul Anuzis, the conservative former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, announced his candidacy for Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman on Friday. Anuzis is the first to announce a bid for the Republican Party leadership election in January. Steele is expected to run for re-election, but he has not yet announced his decision.
Anuzis said that he already has the endorsement of a “core group” of RNC members. “I’m very comfortable that I have a strong group backing me. And I will build off of that in the weeks to come,” he said in an interview with HUMAN EVENTS.
He said that he is now actively calling all of the 168 RNC members to ask for their support in his race against Steele. The election will be held during the RNC winter meeting, which will take place in Washington D.C. from January 12–15, 2011.
Anuzis said that his decision to challenge his friend Steele was not easy, but a change in RNC leadership is necessary because different skills are needed now to run the party than when Steele was elected two years ago.
“Last time around we needed someone in the public eye. We needed someone out front giving speeches, someone on television. This time around we are going to need someone behind a desk, dialing for dollars, meeting with donors, and implementing up a local program,” he said.
“This isn’t about firing anybody. It’s about hiring somebody,” Anuzis told HUMAN EVENTS.
Anuzis’s candidacy is focused on what the GOP needs to do to take back the White House and Senate in 2012. He said that the RNC has to focus primarily on increasing fundraising and voter turnout.
“We will not win in 2012 if the RNC is not able to provide the financial resources we need to support the organizational efforts and ground games of our state parties. Without a fully funded Victory program we will be overwhelmed by the efforts of the unions, the Obama campaign and all their allies,” he wrote in a letter sent to all RNC members.
Anuzis said that voter turnout is something that the GOP “can always do better.” He explained, “the biggest difference that the Republican Party has over anybody else is that we coordinate and implement a volunteer contact program. Our get-out-the-vote efforts and 72-hour programs bring volunteers and conservative activists to call their neighbors and friends and knock on doors. And that just cannot be supplemented by paid workers.”
Asked about Tea Party activists, Anuzis declared, “we pegged them in the ’80s as ‘Reagan Democrats,’ and today they are Tea Party people. They share in conservative values. They don’t believe in either party. They don’t trust that either party will deliver. And it is our responsibility to convince them that we are good stewards of our philosophy of our brand, and that we will do the job that we promised to do when we ran for office.”
“You have to earn each and every vote. We have to have an open dialogue with Tea Party activists around the country. We have to respect the fact that they are a separate organization,” he continued.
“These are activists who want their voices to be heard. I hope that, in most cases, they will be heard in the Republican Party, but in some cases, it will be outside the Republican Party. And a lot of that will be a function of how we act and whether we earn their support and earn their respect and earn their votes.”
Anuzis is the first entrant in what is expected to be a highly contested race for GOP party chairman. Others who may challenge Steele include former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring, Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, and former South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, who lost to Steele two years ago by a very slim margin.