Politics

Meet Gentry Collins, a former Steele aide challenging his boss for RNC chairman

While getting the “financial house in order” is an immediate priority, Collins also says “the other critical challenge in 2011 is finding a way to make certain that all of the energy and the grassroots around the country for conservative change is comfortable and confident that it can find a home in the Republican Party.”

Though Collins — who says the Tea Party movement is a “net positive” for the GOP — says he doesn’t find it likely, he calls Tea Party activists splintering “off into a third party effort” a worse case scenario for the party. That would re-elect President Obama, he said.

Other plans if he were to become chairman, Collins says, include leading an effort in 2011 to put referendums on the ballot — like repealing Obamacare initiatives —  in the 23 states around the country that allow them, which he says can help keep “the positive energy for conservative change” inside the GOP tent.

Doing that, he admits, also has very practical results.

“From a historical point of view, once you get into a presidential year, a successful ballot referenda campaign has a history, as you know, of positively altering turnout dynamics,” he said.

His entrance into the race — with such a high profile memo — surely made waves. Has he received any negative response from members calling his actions opportunistic and disloyal to his former boss?

“It’s been very limited,” he admitted. Instead, Collins says, he thinks most committee members are thankful he brought attention to the committee’s problems under Steele.

“The plurality of members — the majority of members — had a sense that not all was well,” Collins explained about the committee’s health, “but they didn’t have the facts until I gave them the facts. And I did that because my loyalty is to the party, and not to any one individual or officer.”

Collins said he went out of his way, when writing the memo, to “avoid personal references, to avoid rumor mill or hearsay type material and to focus simply and exclusively on verifiable facts.”

“And I think and time will tell, far more than not, members appreciated that,” he said.

Collins, who says he can’t pinpoint when he first thought of running for chairman, admits that coming out from behind the scenes is something new for him.

“It’s not something I had in mind for a long time,” he said. “I decided to run for chairman because I don’t believe that Republicans are going to have an easy time winning back the White House without substantial change at the RNC.”

This article is part of The Daily Caller’s weeklong series profiling the candidates vying to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. Those interested in participating in the Jan. 3 chairman’s debate hosted by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform by proposing or voting on questions to be asked of the candidates can go to www.rncdebate.org for more information