Iowan Gentry Collins exits race to head RNC

Longtime Iowa political operative Gentry Collins has ended his bid to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, he told RNC members in a January 2 letter. Collins made the news in November by resigning as RNC political director and sending RNC members a devastating critique of current chairman Michael Steele’s leadership. Dropping out of the race to succeed Steele, Collins wrote that

part of his mission in campaigning for chairman was to shed light on the party’s financial condition, which he said, “has been a game-changer for Chairman Steele’s re-election prospects.” […]

“I entered this race to make sure there was a credible alternative to Michael Steele and have said from day one I will not get in the way of electing new leadership at the RNC,” Collins wrote.

Collins continued: “It is after much consideration and thought that I announce my withdrawal from the race for Chairman of the RNC. I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for Chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 Election cycle.”

I figured Collins was a long-shot to take his former boss’s job for various reasons. It didn’t look good for him to establish a committee to support his bid for RNC chairman while he was still working at the committee. Craig Robinson’s critique of Collins’ “ego,” “vengeful style” and “heavy-handed” tactics may have put off some Republican insiders too.

Various “whip counts” published by Washington-based journalists showed Collins with only three firm commitments from voting RNC members, far behind the front-runner, Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus. (That’s pronounced “ryns pree-buhs.”) Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn had publicly backed Collins, but committeeman Steve Scheffler was an early Priebus endorser. Iowa’s committeewoman Kim Lehman is supporting Priebus too; she and Scheffler backed the main alternative to Steele in 2009.

Four previous leaders of the national GOP have been from Iowa. The most recent was pro-choice moderate Mary Louise Smith in the mid-1970s. Smith is still the only woman to have headed the RNC. Two women have entered the race to replace Steele, but a rule requiring the party chair and co-chair to be different genders puts them at a disadvantage.

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Iowa's RNC members split on race for chairman

Longtime Iowa political operative Gentry Collins officially announced yesterday that he will run for chairman of the Republican National Committee this January. Collins filed paperwork for the race last month shortly before he resigned as the RNC’s political director. One of the three Iowa RNC members, state party chairman Matt Strawn, has already endorsed Collins.

However, RNC member Steve Scheffler told The Iowa Republican blog that he will back Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus for RNC chairman.

Not only is Scheffler supporting Priebus, but he has agreed to serve in Priebus’ “kitchen cabinet.” […]

Preibus won Scheffler’s support by being a strong defender of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, having a strong stance on social issues, and pledging to run a tight ship if elected to lead the RNC.

Scheffler’s support of Priebus is also a blow to Gentry Collins’ bid to be RNC chairman. Collins, an Iowan, has spent years working in Iowa politics. His inability to secure the support of all three Iowa RNC members will likely be a red flag to other members of the committee.

Scheffler would have come into contact with Collins when Collins was running Mitt Romney’s Iowa campaign in 2007. Scheffler heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, which organized house parties featuring Romney and several other Republican presidential candidates before the caucuses. (Neither Scheffler nor the Iowa Christian Alliance endorsed a candidate in that GOP field.) Scheffler was elected to represent Iowa at the RNC in July 2008, and Collins worked for John McCain’s campaign in Iowa during that year’s general election.

I haven’t seen any public comment from Iowa’s third RNC representative, Kim Lehman, regarding the upcoming race for chairman. She and Scheffler are ideologically similar, having been elected by the same faction of socially conservative delegates to the Iowa GOP state convention in 2008. In January 2009, Scheffler and Lehman publicly supported Katon Dawson for RNC chairman. He lost to current chairman Michael Steele on the sixth round of balloting.  

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Gentry Collins could face uphill battle for top RNC job

Longtime Iowa GOP political operative Gentry Collins has formed a campaign organization to back his likely bid for Republican National Committee chairman this January. If elected, he would be the fifth leader of the national GOP from Iowa and the first since pro-choice moderate Mary Louise Smith chaired the RNC in the mid-1970s.

Collins’ resignation letter as RNC political director probably buried Michael Steele’s already faint hope of being re-elected for another two-year term as party leader. Several factors are likely to count against Collins when the 168 RNC members consider the possible successors to Steele, though.

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Republican with Iowa ties quits RNC job, slams Steele

Michael Steele’s term as chairman of the Republican National Committee expires in January. Although staffing and fundraising problems have marked his tenure in the job, Steele hasn’t ruled out seeking another two years in the position.

That won’t happen if the departing RNC political director Gentry Collins has anything to say about it. Jonathan Martin got hold of the resignation letter Collins sent to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee. Rarely have I heard of an employee denouncing the boss in such a devastating way. Excerpts and background on Collins are after the jump.

UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom for some reactions to Collins’ letter.

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Republicans still raising money with fake census forms

A month after the House and Senate unanimously approved a bill restricting direct-mail pieces designed to look like census documents, the Republican National Committee is at it again:

An RNC mailer obtained by TPMmuckraker bears the words “Census Document” and, in all caps, “DO NOT DESTROY/OFFICIAL DOCUMENT,” on the outside of the envelope. In smaller letters, it says: “This is not a U.S. government document.” The new law requires, among other things, that such mailers state the name and address of the sender on the outside of the envelope — something the RNC’s missive doesn’t appear to do. Inside, a letter from RNC chair Michael Steele, dated April 12, asks recipients to fill out a questionnaire about their political views, and solicits donations of as much as $500 or more. (See the mailer here.)

Last month, in response to virtually identical RNC mailers, members of both parties cried foul, raising the concern that the mailers could reduce the response rate for the actual Census — which was mailed to Americans last month — by confusing some voters. […] Congress quickly passed a law — the House vote was 416-0 — requiring that mailers marked “census” state the name and address of the sender on the outside of the envelope, and contain an unambiguous disclaimer making clear that the mailer is not affiliated with the government.

Based on a PDF image, the mailer obtained by TPMmuckraker does not appear to state the sender’s name and address on the outside. And the words “DO NOT DESTROY/OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” would appear to make the disclaimer that it’s not a government document less than unambiguous.

The RNC’s fundraising efforts have taken a hit this year, and Chairman Michael Steele is under pressure to turn things around, so I can’t say I’m surprised by this desperate act.

On a related note, census mail-back rates exceeded expectations this year, which will save the U.S. Census Bureau hundreds of millions of dollars. Iowa’s census participation rate is 77 percent so far, tied for third with Indiana and just behind Wisconsin and Minnesota. Many communities in Polk County have participation rates over 80 percent.  

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High-ranking departures point to "full-scale bloodletting" at RNC

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been under pressure lately. Since he took over in January 2009, the RNC has spent far more than it has raised, and the latest numbers show the Democratic National Committee ahead of the RNC in cash of hand (which is highly unusual). Major Republican donors have been fleeing the RNC for various reasons, including staffers’ embarrassing fundraising proposals and massive overspending on luxury hotels, limos and nightclubs. Today RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay resigned, prompting one of Steele’s advisers to leave in what Jonathan Martin described as “a full-scale bloodletting”:

“Leadership requires that I can safely assure you, our donors, and the American people that our mission is what drives every dollar we spend, every phone call we make, every email we send and every event we organize,” Steele wrote in the email [sent to RNC members and donors on Monday], obtained by POLITICO. “Recent events have called that assurance into question and the buck stops with me. That is why I have made this change in my management team and why I am confident about going forward to November with renewed focus and energy.”

McKay didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

But his apparent firing has roiled the close-knit world of GOP operatives and Monday night longtime Republican strategist and Steele adviser Curt Anderson said his consulting firm would no longer be working with the RNC.

“Ken McKay’s departure is a huge loss for the Republican Party,” Anderson said in a statement to POLITICO. “Ken steered the party through very successful elections last fall that have given us tremendous momentum. He’s a great talent. Given our firm’s commitments to campaigns all over the country we have concluded it is best for us to step away from our advisory role at the RNC. We have high personal regard for the Chairman and always have; we wish him well.”

It’s hard to see how the turmoil at the RNC won’t end with Steele’s departure, although Josh Marshall argued today that Steele

can’t be fired, in significant measure, because he’s black. Because canning Steele now would only drive home the reality that Republicans were trying to paper over, fairly clumsily, when they hired him in the first place. So Republicans are stuck with his myriad goofs and #pressfails and incompetent management and all the rest because of a set of circumstances entirely of their own making.

Hey, don’t blame Iowa’s RNC members; they voted for Katon Dawson over Steele in January 2009. But I must say I doubt a guy who became a Republican because the government desegregated his high school, and more recently belonged to an all-white country club, would have been the right man to rebuild the GOP’s image.

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