RNC candidates vie for Steele’s job at Daily Caller-sponsored debate

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will be fighting for his job Monday afternoon against a slew of challengers at a National Press Club debate hosted by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform.

Steele’s chairmanship has been shaken by repeated controversies, ranging from RNC funds being used for expenses in a bondage-themed strip club to questionable spending on his former personal assistant and her family.

TheDC’s editor-in-chief, Tucker Carlson, and ATR president Grover Norquist will ask questions of Steele and those running against him during the debate. Steele has a number of challengers, including national GOP committeeman Saul Anuzis, former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner and Bush-era Transportation Secretary Maria Cino. One of Steele’s former aides, Reince Priebus, is running against him too. (Another Steele aide, Gentry Collins, was slated to also run as well, but dropped out of the race Sunday night).

The position is an important one because the new chairman will be charged with putting together the party’s plan for the 2012 presidential election. Candidates have tossed around the notion of what kind of place the Tea Party movement will have at the table. Candidates for RNC chair don’t have to court Tea Partiers around the country for the job, though, as the chairman gets elected by RNC delegates.

Another issue sure to be central in the debate is from whom the RNC should seek donations. During Steele’s chairmanship, the RNC has received smaller donations than previous election cycles because he courted smaller pockets – while some big donors decided to give their money elsewhere.

Each candidate has made his or her own case for the job in profiles in TheDC.  Anuzis is calling for a fresh start with big donors to “regain the trust” of RNC supporters. Cino told TheDC she plans to focus on the fixing the RNC’s budget, aiming at cleaning up its financial division.

Priebus, described by supporters as a “staunch conservative,” resigned from the RNC’s top legal counsel spot on December 5 and announced his candidacy for his boss’s job the next day. Wagner is worried about a transatlantic socialistic creep, and has said, if elected, she’d definitely get the Tea Party movement “a seat at the table.” Wagner has ripped Steele in recent interviews, too, adding that she hopes no candidate throws his or her support behind the current chairman if he or she backs out of the race.

Steele who waited until the last minute to announce his candidacy for reelection, will be at the debate as well. It wasn’t clear until late in December whether he’d take part in The Daily Caller/Americans for Tax Reform debate. Steele says his style of chairmanship is different than most.

The debate, which begins at 1:00 p.m. ET today, can be viewed here at dailycaller.com, or at rncdebate.org.