GOP elects first black national party chairman

Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:53 p.m.

WASHINGTON Michael Steele was elected Republican National Committee chairman on Friday, defeating the incumbent party chief and three other challengers over six rounds of voting to become the first black to lead the GOP.

Michael Steele
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Michael Steele

In this Sept. 3, 2008 file photo, Michael Steele speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. On Friday, Jan. 30, 2009, Steele was elected the first black Republican National Committee chairman.

The Associated Press

The former Maryland lieutenant governor takes over a beleaguered GOP as Republicans seek to rebound from back-to-back defeats in national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House.

"As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome," said Steele, the most moderate candidate in the field and considered an outsider because he's not a committee member.

In a brief acceptance speech, the new GOP chairman struck a tone of inclusiveness.

"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be a part of us, we want you to with be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," Steele said.

He won 91 votes out of a possible 168 in the sixth round. A simple majority of 85 was needed, but it took six rounds for Steele to win.

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