January 8th, 2010
01:22 PM ET
10 years ago

Steele rival re-emerges amidst RNC turmoil

 Katon Dawson is re-emerging as a leading Republican figure ahead of an important RNC gathering later this month.

Katon Dawson is re-emerging as a leading Republican figure ahead of an important RNC gathering later this month.

Washington (CNN) - With GOP infighting reaching a crescendo after the latest string of off-message comments from Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, the man who narrowly lost to Steele in last year's contentious race for the chairmanship is re-emerging ahead of an important RNC gathering later this month.

Katon Dawson, the former South Carolina Republican Party chairman who lost to Steele by just 14 votes in last February's RNC election, will travel to the committee's Winter Meeting in Hawaii on Jan. 25 in the place of Karen Floyd, the current South Carolina GOP chairwoman. Floyd asked Dawson to make the trip in her stead because the RNC confab conflicts with a Republican gubernatorial debate in South Carolina.

Dawson told CNN he is "thrilled" to travel to the Winter Meeting in Honolulu so he can re-connect with "a lot of really good friends and associates" on the committee. Since coming up short in the RNC race, Dawson - who helmed the South Carolina GOP for seven years - has been running his Columbia-based auto parts business. He also recently started Dawson Public Affairs, a political consulting firm.

Though the trip raises suspicions that he could be maneuvering behind the scenes to replace Steele in the next chairman's race, Dawson said it would be "unfortunate" for political observers to read too much into the excursion.

"I certainly understand how someone would see it that way, but that is not the intent of why I am going," he said. "I am going to reconnect wth my Republican colleagues around the country. I am as engaged as I was when I was state party chairman and when I was running for national chairman."

But pressed on whether he wants another shot at running the party, Dawson would not rule it out. "I am 53 years young, and I have done politics all my life," he said. "I have learned to never to close or open any doors at any point, so it would be hard to answer that question."

Dawson also offered a mix of praise and criticism for Steele, saying he has been "very supportive" of the current chairman. "I have respectfully declined to make some public comments because our leadership styles are very different," he said.

Steele has been under fire this week for predicting that Republicans will not take back the House this November, a remark that angered party strategists on Capitol Hill. Dawson said he understood that Steele was trying to set appropriate expectations, but added that he would have expressed himself differently.

"Michael Steele does have a different style, whether it's offensive or to be applaued," he said. "Would have I have said it? Probably not. But what I will say is political parties are judged by wins and loses and setting expectations. And you have to very careful about what expectations you set."

Dawson said Republicans "will come very close to taking a majority" this fall.

Filed under: Katon Dawson • Michael Steele
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Michael from Ventura

    Gotta love it! Have at it. Use some of that hate you have so much of to destroy each other. The gop will never learn. Just say NO to them and their lunacy!

    January 8, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Who said the Mayans were wrong?

    Now we will get to see the real face of the republican party,a redneck hillbilly from a confederate state,whose parents werent sure if it was a girl or a boy when it was born.Lets see if wearing a stars and bars suit gets the GOP gang all excited.hahaha

    January 8, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. Future expat

    "will come very close to taking a majority"

    So GOPers believe, or at least they say they believe, that 2010 will be a repeat of 1994, but what if it's more like 2004 in reverse? That was the year that Democrats were convinced that they would take back the White House. In the end Bush won and Democrats had to wait 4 years for their next chance.

    I have no idea what's going to happen in this year's elections (no one does), but what if GOPers' expectations are not met? What if they don't get their much-hoped victory? I don't think that these people, who've grown creepily fond of the word "bloodbath", have it in them to do what liberals did and just wait.

    January 8, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. El Kababa

    Steele is a bit of a loose cannon, but he is no nuttier than most Republicans in Congress. His sin is that he is too much of an individualist. He says what he thinks at least part of the time.

    He doesn't think the Party will win enough seats in the House to have a majority in 2011. However, The Party Line is to predict that there is a boiling pot of resentment among voters which will sweep the Party back into power.

    If you are a member of The Party, you must believe what you are told to believe and say what you are told to say. Otherwise, The Party turns on you like a pack of hyenas. A Good Party Member does not think for himself, of course. All members of The Party are Rugged Individualists, and all of The Party's Rugged Individualists must speak alike, think alike, vote alike, and predict alike. When The Party says be silent, you must be silent. When The Party says to be filled with righteous wrath, then you splutter with angry indignation. When The Party says, "Deficits don't matter" then deficits do not matter to you. When The Party says, "We are mortgaging our childrens' futures" then you weep for your children.

    Next week, I predict that all Republican members of the House and Senate will be goose-stepping around the Capitol Building in a "Freedom Parade."

    George Orwell, why did you die so young? There is another book waiting to be written. You left us too soon. (If you don't understand, google it.)

    January 8, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. sharp2

    CNN where is the story on Jonathan Gruber – more Obama Healthcare corruption.

    January 8, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    A South Carolina Republican? That's become synonymous with Wingnut. See: Mark Sanford, Jim DeMint, Joe Wilson et al. Dawson will make a great representative for the Wingnut party.

    January 8, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Frank A NYC

    Watch your back Mike. I sense a palace coup coming.

    January 8, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. Angi's mom

    Bye bye, Michael Steele.

    January 8, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Michael Steele will suffer the most embarrassing blow of his political life when he is soon to be replaced and he did it to himself. Steele has said some of the most unwarranted ugliest things about our President which further distanced Obama supporters from the Republican Party. When they fire him, I wonder if he'll file charges against the Republican Party, if so Steele won't get much support.

    January 8, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Traj

    It's as simple as this: The Old White Men (GOP) no longer need a black face to represent them as they feel they have hurt President Obama (whateva to that). Steele's time (as ALL black people new) is up. They are about to throw him out in the pasture where I personally feel he belongs. Michael Steele was a moderate, How the heck did he become such an extreme conservative over night. Well, the Party of schemes and scams convinced his dumb arse to do it. He is about to get what he deserves, and not too soon either. I lost respect for him when he bowed down to Rush Dumbo, and when he started talking all that Hip-Hop nonsense... Micheal, one thing you better remember, you will never be able to kiss enough arse to be in the GOP... And why would you even want...

    January 8, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. carlos

    from south carolina?????????enough said.........keep the infighting repugnants, your image is already tarnished and below a snake's a$$

    January 8, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. Jaz

    Steele better wear a bullet-proof vest. Republicans are not the brightest bunch. NO telling who will stab you first before "Happy Hour" even begins. LOL.

    January 8, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Todd

    A rich old white guy. He should be in there to show how the gop is in favor of diversifying it's brand. It he puts on a tinfoil hat with tea bags hanging from it and tea bags the fux news ayatollahs he is a shoe in to replace steele. Then the republicons can all blame their problems on incompetent affirmative action blacks.

    January 8, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Jane/Seattle

    Hey, Republicans: Go to OZ and find somebody with a brain, a heart, a new robot and the like. Check back with us later – like 2050 or out there!

    January 8, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    Just what this country needs - a white SC Republican with no morals heading up the party as it swallows itself by the tail.

    Self-destruction 101 – when it ain't working, make it worse with another SC Nutjob.

    January 8, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. TwoBears

    Oh good grief LOL, Dawson is from that bastion of intolerance South Carolina. Just when you think the GOP couldn't get any sillier, out pops another clown from South Carolina.

    January 8, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Gary

    "who helmed the South Carolina GOP for seven years"
    Now there's a " Good Old Boy " Funny the GOP would pick their leader from the dumbest state in the country.

    January 8, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Michael Steele Has Got To Go

    He needs to take Michael Steel's job. This man is a clown, and I don't care if he is the first African American chairman. He puts his foot in his mouth everytime he opens that trap. He's a clown of the worst kind, one that thinks he's knows everything. He knows diddley squat–nada.

    Bring back the brains, this idiot is done.

    January 8, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. white female

    Well, let's see how long before Mr. Steele will be saying goood byeee.

    I feel so sorry for him that he couldn't see through this bunch that hey were only using him. (bro).
    May be he will think before putting his race down again, he need to learn not to see color, and strive to be the Man our President is. He may learn a thing or two about being an american of subtance.

    January 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. D.

    When it is inside the democratic party, it is called by the media a "primary", when it is in the republican party it is called "chaos" and similar things (remember we are still a democracy and the parties are open for people competing, even though our senate is behaving like the supreme soviet!)

    January 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  21. NVa Native

    Oh, cool ~ another Republican from South Carolina ...this will be fun.

    January 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. Michael-SC

    Just what we need. More SC Politicians on national headline.
    Wilson the liar
    Sandford the cheater
    DeMint the clueless
    Do we really need any more of them?

    January 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. Obama=Trickle up poverty

    Hey CNN, how about a story on the underpants bomber pleading not guilty, when he should be under military control and not lawyered up at Tax payer expense.................you need to report the consequences of Obamas dismantling of Bush policies.

    January 8, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. algriffin521

    'katon' dawson. another white southerner.

    sounds really stupid.

    have steele call himself REV. he was a seminarian.


    January 8, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. What goes around

    Perfect. Republican Party Chairman from South Carolina, the state that brought us Mark Sanford, Joe "You Lie!" Wilson and Jim DeMint. Lindsey Graham - who was just censured by the party leadership in SC - looks so reasonable by comparison. Way to go, GOP. Why deny your true reactionary instincts?

    January 8, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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