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Local GOP Says It's Poised for Change

UPDATE: 4:08 Another first: Michael Steele wins chairmanship of the RNC. (Watch Steele's full acceptance speech.)

UPDATE: 3:50 It looks as if the voting for the RNC is heating up and Michael Steele, after the fifth round of voting is in the lead. That's according to Paul Craney, executive director of the District's GOP. The District's three votes also went to Steele. The race is now down to Steele and Dawson.

Michael Steele speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. last September. (AP)

Leaders of the D.C. Republican Committee are hoping that their party will make history today as the Republican National Committee votes today at the Capitol Hilton to elect a new national party leader.

"I think Michael Steele is the local favorite," said Robert Kabel, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee. "He has a lot of support here and a lot of support from people around the country. I am supporting him as well as our national committee woman Betsey Werronen."

Steele, the former Maryland Lt. Governor, is one of six candidates vying to chair the RNC. The others are: current RNC chair Mike Duncan; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party; former Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman; and Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Steele and Blackwell are both African American, but Raynard Jackson, 48, a D.C. political consultant and longtime member of the Republican Party said the party has to do more than select a minority if it is going to become more diverse.

"Of the 168 voting members of the committee, no more than four are African Americans," he said.

"The November election showed that blacks are very capable of voting for Obama, who is very liberal at the top of the ticket, and then vote for something like a Constituently amendment to ban same sex marriage in California," Jackson said. "This flies against conventional wisdom that blacks are straight party line people."

Jackson, who is African American, said, "The party needs someone who has a vision and will be able to adequately define what the Republican Party is in terms of an ideology."

Jackson was also critical of Saltsman, who during the Christmas holidays distributed a holiday music CD that included a parody entitled, "Barack the Magic Negro."

Locally, the DC Republican Party seems to be doing all right on the inclusion front.

"What I am really excited about is that we added 18 new members to our local party that include men, women, African Americans and additional gay members," Kabel said Tuesday after being reelected.

In addition to electing Kabel, the D.C. Republican Committee also selected former Ward 2 DC Council candidate Christina Culver and former At-Large DC Council candidate Patrick Mara to serve on the executive committee. Kabel will serve his third two-year term and the executive committee meets once a month to strategize about the future of the DC Republican Party.

Hamil R. Harris

By Hamil Harris  |  January 30, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  GOP  
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