Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's Official: Reince Priebus, new RNC Chairman

Reince Priebus
The Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman who helped oversee the groundbreaking elections of Sean Duffy and Ron Johnson is taking his skills to the national stage. Wisconsin's own Reince Priebus officially beat out six other candidates to become Republican National Committee Chairman on Friday afternoon. Priebus, who has been Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair for nearly 4 years, now replaces the embattled Michael Steele who withdrew in round 4 of the ballot process after not being able to gain enough votes to win re-election. The 168-person Republican National Committee conducts its balloting in a round-by-round format with each prospective candidate able to remain in the running from the start of the vote until they no longer are able to draw enough votes to mathematically attain a majority win. Once ousted, each candidate then is able to focus on throwing their support behind one of the remaining options. Priebus secured his victory with 97 votes in the 7th round, long after Steele had been retired and had thrown his own weight behind RNC official Maria Cino. The win was the end game in a complicated series of closed door maneuvering that defines the RNC chairmanship election. Reince never trailed in votes throughout the day and had entered round one of balloting with a total of 44 official commitments. Over the next 6 rounds, the series of contenders fell by the wayside, with ever-shifting enclaves and behind-the-scenes deal-making swelling his vote total into the 7th round where he was finally able to break the barrier, leaving his closest competitor, Michigan's Saul Anuzis, with 43 and Cino with 28.

Priebus threw his hat in the ring on December 6 of 2010. Being from Wisconsin and up against several long-entrenched members of the RNC, his victory seemed like a long shot, but his personal skills and organizational prowess including his experience in running Michael Steele's 2009 campaign to become Chairman helped solidify inner connections and though he didn't have a great showing in the debate round of the proceedings on January 3, he was able to secure the commitments to help him win on Friday.

"Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus will make an outstanding chairman for our national party," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said in a press release when Priebus announced.

"Our success in Wisconsin this year is due in large part to Reince's leadership in joining with the grass-roots movement that swept Wisconsin and our nation, bringing major Republican gains on November 2nd. Reince made our state party all-inclusive, and led the charge to successfully take back the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and both chambers of the statehouse.

Reince embraces conservative principles and has an established track record of outstanding communications, fund-raising and grass roots organization. He is exactly what the national GOP needs: a skilled and proven leader who never forgot the roots of the party."

Priebus' leadership style would be a great departure from the former Chairman Steele's, which is exactly what many in the Party have been clamoring for. Steele's out-in-public facade may have been a distraction from the meaningful, in-the-trenches organizational functions that are looked at as being the most vital to the RNC chairmanship. In Wisconsin, Priebus organized a massive grassroots phone and door-to-door ground campaign that led to the State being one of the top get-out-the-vote networks in the country. Aside from helping to result in the elections of the aforementioned Duffy, Johnson, and Reid Ribble for national offices, it also resulted in a complete flip in the Governorship and the State Houses from Democratic majorities to steep Republican. His roll-up-your-sleeves philosophy may be just what the Party needs going forward as the RNC faces daunting challenges with the 2012 Presidential elections looming, the Establishment and Tea Party wings having to Unite behind a common candidate, and the Committee being 20 million in the hole after the 2010 election cycle in combination Steele's fundraising gaffes and fiscal mismanagement. Priebus' first tasks will be to rebuild relationships and coffers.

“Now is the time for the committee to unite,” he said in his victory speech according to the The Daily Caller. “We must come together for the common interest.”

“With that in mind,” he continued, “I want you to know, that I am here to earn the trust and support for each and every one of you.” He added, “And I’m going to start working right now as your chairman.”

“We all recognize that there’s a steep hill here ahead of us. The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.”

"As Reagan said, our nation is that shining city upon a hill and we must work to keep it that way,” Priebus continued, saying that he would do everything possible, with the help of the committee “to be sure that our Republican presidential nominee has the organization in place to beat Barack Obama."

Priebus, a Wisconsin native, was born in Kenosha and received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and English from the UW Whitewater, served as a staffer in the Wisconsin legislature for a year, and then attended the University of Miami where he obtained a law degree in 1998. He interned for the NAACP in Los Angeles and went to work at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee once out of law school. He ran for State Senate in 2004 where he unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Robert Wirch and then ran for Wisconsin Republican Party chair in 2007 and won as the youngest person ever elected. He additionally became general counsel for the RNC in 2009.

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