US & Canada

Reince Priebus wins Republican Party chairman post

Reince Priebus receiving applause from Republican National Committee Secretary Sharon Day
Image caption Reince Priebus surpassed the 85 votes necessary to win the post during the seventh round of voting

Reince Priebus, from the US state of Wisconsin, has been voted in as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

He received more than the 85 necessary votes in the seventh round of balloting and will hold the post for two years.

Michael Steele, the Republican Party's previous head and first black chairman, withdrew his bid for re-election after failing to win votes in earlier rounds.

Mr Steele was criticised for gaffes and mismanagement of party finances.

Four other Republicans had also sought the chance to lead the party into the 2012 presidential election.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee is the party's spokesman and chief fundraiser, who helps candidates running for re-election.

'We must win'

"I will step aside because I think the party is ready for something different," Mr Steele told the 168 members of the committee after withdrawing his bid.

"We must go forward, and we must win. We fired [Nancy] Pelosi," Mr Steele said, referring to the Republicans' victory in the House in November's mid-term elections.

"Let's take the Senate. Let's take the White House."

Mr Priebus will head the party for two years and lead it into the next presidential election, when defeating Mr Obama will be the Republican Party's primary objective.

"I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you," Mr Priebus said.

"We all recognize that there's a steep hill here ahead of us, and the only way that we'll be able to move forward is if we're all together," he added.

Mr Priebus said his top priority was "making sure he has the organisation in place to beat Barack Obama" in the next presidential election.

But Mr Priebus will more urgently be in charge of raising the $22m (£14m) owed to vendors and banks on behalf of the party, which only had $1m at the end of 2010.

He also faces an increasingly divided Republican Party, where Tea Party members are battling long-time party leaders by attempting to pull the group further to the political right.

Before Wisconsin native was voted in, Mr Steele urged his supporters to back Maria Cino, a Republican operative who worked in George W Bush's administration. She also had the endorsement of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Former Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis and Ann Wagner, former ambassador to Luxembourg under Mr Bush, also lost out to Mr Priebus on Friday.

Mr Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected in January 2009 to the party's top post, two months after President Barack Obama became the first African-American to win the White House.

The Republican National Committee, under Mr Steele, led the party to sweeping gains in the mid-term elections, but amassed sizeable debts.

Mr Priebus managed Mr Steele's campaign in 2009 and served as Republican General Counsel before resigning the position last month to begin his own bid for the chairmanship.

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