Politics

January 14, 2013

Paul backer in Maine persists in rebel role

Mark Willis is mounting a long-shot bid to lead the nation's Republicans and promote libertarian voices.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Several weeks after the November election, Priebus announced that he planned to seek another term in the chairman's seat. Priebus said he had the backing of 150 of the 168 committee members, well in excess of the 85 votes he would need to win re-election.

"Together we are going to make the case to every American -- from coast to coast -- that the Republican Party is their party and is the best choice for the future of our great nation and the principles it was founded on," Priebus said in a video announcing his re-election campaign.

But others have called for Priebus to step aside following the loss of the White House and seats in both chambers of Congress.

"If that's the hook they want to hang their hat on, I can understand why Mark Willis and others are frustrated," said former RNC chairman Michael Steele, a vocal critic of the current leadership.

As Priebus' predecessor, Steele was a bombastic and high-profile chairman. His tenure included dramatic Republican gains in Congress. But Steele -- the party's first African-American chairman -- was also controversial and left the RNC deeply in debt.

Steele said Friday that it appeared that Priebus and his supporters had already "baked the cake" on the chairman's re-election. He said November's losses underscore the need for fundamental change.

"This is not the leadership team that the committee is going to need to talk to the gay and lesbian Republicans or talk to black and Hispanic Republicans, let alone those independent or conservative Democrats who would not look at the party otherwise," said Steele, who is now a political commentator.

An RNC official referred questions about Priebus' re-election bid to his campaign, which did not return requests for comment Friday.

For his part, Willis credited Priebus for his organizational and fundraising skills after inheriting a party that was $24 million in debt. But he accused the current leadership of consolidating power at the top.

If nominated, Willis said he will call for eliminating the rules adopted at the national convention that he believes disenfranchise grass-roots party members. He also wants to return some authority to state committees when it comes to deciding how and when to hold party caucuses or primaries.

"We need to energize the grass roots and rank and file of the party," he said. "I really want to bring a spirit of inclusiveness to the party, if elected."

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at (207) 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC


Correction: This article was updated at 11:55 a.m., Jan 14, 2013, to correct an error regarding the political positions held by previous chairmen of the Republican National Committee.

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