At SRLC, Watts and Va. chair Mullins back Steele
By Amy Gardner
A few hours after North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer called for RNC chairman Michael Steele to resign, other Republicans were saying just the opposite.
J.C. Watts, the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma and a headliner at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that's kicking off Thursday night in New Orleans, said in an interview that Steele had brought some of his troubles on himself. But Watts said the results of recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts and the dollars Steele has raised speak louder than the string of controversies that have surrounded Steele's tenure.
"Some of the things they're shooting at him with, I honestly don't understand. I think some of it is politics, it's silliness. Think about it. Other chairs have written books. Other chairs have had outside income. Other chairs have flown charters."
Another state party chairman, Pat Mullins of Virginia, said much the same. Mullins condemned the RNC's latest controversy -- revelations that the committee spent nearly $2,000 at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub -- but said he believes Steele's claim that he knew nothing about it.
"I know Michael Steele. That's not his style; that's not something he would do," Mullins said. He added that Steele should bring in a new team to take a closer look at RNC expenditures. But he said forcing Steele out now would be devastating to the GOP's chances in this year's crucial midterm elections.
"I would totally be opposed to that," Mullins said. "We've elected him for a term. That term's up in January. At that point he can decide whether he wants to run again or not run again and then you do a referendum on his tenure as Republican Party chairman. He was very helpful in Virginia throughout our campaign, and I don't think we need to get into a divisive intraparty thing like that in the middle of congressional elections."
April 8, 2010; 8:20 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Republican Party
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