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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