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Majority of state GOP committees support Steele; others cite 'distractions'

By Amy Gardner
Saturday, April 10, 2010; A03

NEW ORLEANS -- A majority of state Republican Party chairmen have signed a letter supporting Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele, citing his accomplishments in the job.

"The charge of any national chairman is to raise money and win elections," read the letter, signed by 29 state committees plus those in Guam and the District. "With over $100 million raised, victories in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and victories in 29 of 37 special elections, Michael Steele has demonstrated that under his chairmanship the RNC has the ability, focus, and drive to lead Republicans to a sweeping victory in November."

Steele has been involved in several controversies during his tenure, and a handful of RNC committee members said they were planning to meet Friday in New Orleans to discuss the chairman.

Roger Villere, the Louisiana state chairman, said several national committee members have asked him to call a meeting on the sidelines of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference to talk about Steele. Two state chairmen, Randy Pullen of Arizona and Gary Jones of Oklahoma, said in interviews that they and other chairmen are frustrated with Steele's missteps, which they characterized as "distractions" from the task of taking back Congress from the Democrats.

"We need to focus on elections," Jones said. "We need to put winning elections as the most important thing and take personalities out of this and move forward."

Pullen, who is also the RNC's treasurer, said that recent news reports of an RNC expenditure of nearly $2,000 at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub was the most perplexing of a series of controversies on Steele's watch.

"We're frustrated," Pullen said. "It shouldn't have happened. . . . We have a fiduciary responsibility to donors to spend their money the way they expect us to spend their money, which is to win elections."

Pullen said donors have told him they will not give to the RNC.

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