N.C. GOP Chair Calls for Steele to Step Down

Thursday, 08 Apr 2010 07:22 PM

By David A. Patten

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A growing GOP insurgency bent on ousting RNC chairman Michael Steele appears to be gaining momentum, after two RNC committee members called for Steele to resign Thursday afternoon.

Also, sources tell Newsmax that a veritable flood of angry e-mails from key Republicans has poured into GOP offices over the past week. Republicans are complaining that the questionable RNC expenditures, which culminated in last week's "strippergate" scandal, have created a major distraction at a key point in the election cycle as the midterms begin to loom large.

A significant portion of the rising resistance to Steele's tenure is coming from black Republicans, who are frustrated that Steele earlier this week appeared to partially blame his problems on racism.

"I resent Mr. Steele saying that some of the criticism he's getting is racial," Dr. Ada M. Fisher, the Republican National Committee woman from North Carolina, tells Newsmax. "I'm black and I'm not critical of him because of race. I'm critical because of the lack of accountability and transparency. That's our job. He needs to do that job -- and I don't perceive that he has."

Fisher tells Newsmax she is calling for Steele to step down because he simply has too much baggage now to be the effective leader that the RNC needs in the run-up to the midterms.

"We're not revolting against Steele," Fisher tells Newsmax. "We're just saying 'Look, you cannot lead with all this stuff going on, because you will always be the focus of the media's attention.'"

Fisher adds: "Be assured," she tells Newsmax, "Black Republicans who have been in the trenches a long time are not real pleased with what is going on. Nor are white and other ethnic members of our party."

Joining Fisher in the call for Steele to step down Thursday was Tom Fetzer, chairman of North Carolina Republican Party.

Fetzer, like Fisher, holds one of the 168 seats that comprise the RNC.

In a letter to Steele that was later circulated via e-mail, Fetzer wrote to Steele that while some criticism of him has been unjustified, it would be "difficult if not impossible for you to lead the party in the direction that it needs to go."

"As Republicans," Fetzer wrote, "we must pull together and restore our reputation as the party that stands for important things – and isn't willing to compromise on those important things."

He added that "the best service you can render to your party at this critical juncture is to graciously step aside and allow the party to move on from this current quagmire."

The announcements by Fisher and Fetzer followed New Hampshire RNC member Sean Mahoney's statement on Tuesday that he is resigning from the organization. He said he had watched with "growing unease" as the free-spending ways of Congress "seeped into our own national party."

Steele has been on the defensive ever since revelations that nearly $2,000 in expenses at a bondage-themed club in West Hollywood, Calif., had been reimbursed by the RNC. Steele was not in attendance at the event and the RNC states it was not part of any official event. But combined with prior reports of lavish expenses for five-star hotels and limousines -- along with dwindling cash reserves -- the scandal triggered a strong GOP reaction against Steele.

Several prominent Republicans are advising donors to send their money to other groups they say would directly benefit candidates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, have rushed to Steele's defense.

Until Thursday, most pundits calculated that Steele would be able to ride out the political tempest: It would take a two-thirds vote by the RNC to elect a new chairman. But the public defections could be taking a toll.

"This bears watching on a daily basis," Dr. Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, tells Newsmax. "It is tough, but not impossible, to push out a party chair. If donors stop giving and staffers quit in droves, a chair has no choice but to depart. Conditions aren't that dire yet. But if there are any more Steele stumbles, it probably is lights out."

Fisher suggests frustration with the RNC leadership may be much greater than generally recognized. She says committee members have been reluctant to say anything that could draw more negative attention to the RNC. She adds that committee members fear criticizing Steele could be perceived, or portrayed, as racist.

"I know of lot of people who are dissatisfied now," she says. "I would say, of the people I've talking to at the RNC, all of them are dissatisfied. Now, whether that dissatisfaction will cause them to get up and do something, that I can't say."


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