Local Politics

N.C. GOP calls for RNC leader to step down

Posted April 8, 2010 4:12 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2010 4:35 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer on Thursday asked Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to resign in the wake of a spending scandal.

"Recent events, regardless of who is to blame, have made it difficult if not impossible for you to lead the party in the direction that it needs to go," Fetzer wrote in a letter to Steele. "I believe that the best service you can render to your party at this critical juncture is to graciously step aside and allow the party to move on from this current quagmire. It will best move forward under new leadership."

A lightning rod for criticism since he was elected chairman in 2009, Steele came under renewed scrutiny amid evidence of lavish spending by the RNC, including a nearly $2,000 bill at a sex-themed nightclub in Los Angeles.

During a conference call that Steele hosted Wednesday for many of the RNC's 168 voting members, GOP officials didn't urge him to resign or discuss replacing him.

Steele was urged to make "internal adjustments" and watch his rhetoric, however.

The spending controversy, particularly the idea of GOP dollars going to a Hollywood club featuring simulated bondage and lesbian sex, led RNC executive director Ken McKay to step down and Alex Castellanos, a prominent GOP pollster, to suggest that Steele resign as chairman.

Sean Mahoney, a businessman and RNC member from New Hampshire, resigned from the RNC, blaming "the out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington" for infecting the Republican Party.

Ron Nehring, an RNC member from California, dismissed Mahoney's complaint as "grandstanding" and said party officials around the country were largely positive about Steele's stewardship of the RNC.

Nehring pointed to GOP victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governors' races last year and Scott Brown's upset victory in a special election to replace Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts in January as evidence that the RNC under Steele has been effective and has spent money well.

Still, Fetzer said he thinks the GOP would be better served by a new chairman.

"More than ever, America needs the Republican Party to be a force for reform, transparency, and ethics in government. If we are going to be an effective agent for reform in America, we must first reform our party," he wrote in his letter to Steele.

Some RNC members also have criticized Steele, who is black, for suggesting in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" that he is held to a higher standard because of his race.

The Republican National Committee raised $11.4 million in March, nearly $2 million less than the Democratic National Committee, in spite of an electoral environment that appears to favor Republicans.