After a contentious six rounds of voting, the Republican National Committee elected former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as its new chairman, marking the first time an African American has been chosen to head the GOP.
On the final ballot of the day, Steele, who grew up in D.C., bested South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson 91 to 77, the Associated Press reports.
The contest, which began with five candidates, slowly dwindled as the day wore on with incumbent GOP Chairman Mike Duncan, who had been hand selected by President George W. Bush for the post, dropping out after the third round of votes.
Steele, who campaigned heavily for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the presidential campaign, will take the helm of the Republican Party as it struggles to find its footing after a series of heavy losses in recent elections.
Paul Craney, a spokesman for the D.C. Republican Committee, says his group had been a strong supporter of Steele going into the elections. With Steele’s win, Craney says the party is on the right track to become competitive in areas of the country that had previously proven difficult to reach.
“He has been a longtime supporter of what we’ve been trying to do which is to be competitive in the urban, traditionally blue areas of the country. We couldn’t be prouder,” he says.