RNC Chairman Michael Steele will debate rivals on Jan. 3

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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THEDC EXCLUSIVE – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has confirmed his attendance at a Jan. 3 debate co-hosted by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform, setting the stage for a showdown between the embattled incumbent and his vocal rivals.

The debate will allow Steele to a chance to finally answer his critics on issues such as the RNC’s “get out the vote” effort in the recent midterm elections, the RNC’s sizable debt heading into a crucial presidential election cycle, the eyebrow-raising salaries of his former personal assistant Belinda Cook and several members of her family who are working on the GOP presidential convention in Tampa, Fla.

Steele’s decision comes as the chairmanship contest has become acrimonious in recent days as a key Steele ally and a leader of the “anybody but Steele” movement had a war of words over e-mail.

His attendance is a major surprise in the chairmanship contest. Even Steele’s supporters thought he would not attend, explaining to TheDC he would defend his record in the “real,” closed-door debate among RNC members.

It also comes as one of Steele’s most vehement defenders over the last two years has deserted him. Shawn Steel, a “chiropractic attorney” in California and RNC member, announced he was backing Reince Priebus Sunday evening.

The debate will be on Jan. 3 at 1:00pm at the National Press Club and live-streamed at TheDC and RNCDebate.org.

Every declared candidate, including Former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, former Bush administration official Maria Cino, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC political director Gentry Collins and former Missouri committeewoman Ann Wagner, has confirmed his or her attendance.

Daily Caller publisher Neil Patel vowed the debate will be both “fair” and “tough.” It will also be the most “technologically advanced debate ever conducted,” he said.

Audience participation will feature prominently. Questions used during the debate will come from those submitted and voted on at RNCDebate.org.