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. valwayne

    The Democrats are engaged in the biggest corrupt spending spree in the history of mankind and the remaking of the entire American health care system. They are doing it behind closed doors breaking the promise Obama made over and over and over that it would be on CSPAN. We lost more jobs in December and Unemployment remained at 10% only because more and more people aren't bothering to look for work. And let's not forget "The System Worked" Terrorist (Isolated Extremist) affair. Yet the leading ticker story on CNN is about someong nobody knows from SC going to a meeting in Hawaii that nobody cares about? CNN?????

    January 8, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. NC

    Michael Steele will soon know what it is really like to be a Black man when the good ole boys stick it to him.

    January 8, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. harold

    The party of the Great Depression.. still remembered by some people in USA.. is in need of a great big ole stimulus...Or bail out... Don't count on republicans taking over much in 2010... what would they have to offer all of us in the USA?..We know what they gave us during 8 years of rule.. in the Bush years......Don't we?

    January 8, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Moderate

    After what Steele said about the Democrates not running for re-election, this is pretty funny, hypocritical, but funny

    January 8, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  5. Fred Allehoff

    Steele is an idiot. The GOP best dump him asap. His mouth seems to be disconnected from his brain.

    January 8, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  6. Mr. Moderate

    Oh great, another South Carolina Republican. It appears they never want voters like me to return.

    That sound you hear is Ronald Reagan spinning in his grave.....

    January 8, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. Robert

    Let's face it, Steele one because of one reason- he's non-white. The GOP was so desperate to not be the party of "bitter, old, white men" that the first candidate (and, in fact, the only candidate) to fit that bill got the RNC chairman job. That proved disastrous. In interview after interview, Michael Steele not only distorts and misstates facts (which you expect an RNC chairman to do when the facts aren't on the GOP side) but just gets fundamental government, political, and historical information laughably wrong. No amount of his phony trying to appear to be "from the street" can make up for his general ineptitude. Now the GOP is in the unfortunate situation of having to oust him and appear to be racists (which was what they were trying to avoid by giving him the job in the first place). Good luck, GOP.

    January 8, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  8. Proud DEM

    Let them eat their own....that's what your good at Rethugs.....There is no way you will win the majority...keep dreaming! LOL!

    January 8, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. Matt

    Not news. Come on CNN, stop trying to play sides.

    January 8, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. Tom

    Another South Carolinian! That's the ticket, GOP!

    January 8, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Jesse

    Republicans = Socialism for Big Business and the Rich

    January 8, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  12. Lydia

    Whether Dawson is working behind the scenes or not, it is forgone conclusion that Steele will be out at the next election. He is an embarrassment on so many levels I dare not start to count them.

    January 8, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |

    When asked to explain his " Fire me or shut up" quip on CSPAN today,Mr Steele said that he could be a hothead at times because he is"passionate" about his job, soon to be his former job. Dawson isn't just popping up now.Typical GOP snake action. The delusional party of no never tells the truth. If they are talking,they're lying. Palin,Armey and the tea party march on toward the cliff.

    January 8, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. enough already

    I don't care who leads the GOP, that person is still someone I trust more than the morons leading the Demasses – Obama, Pelosi and Reid – now that's a Dream Team.

    January 8, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. ender

    Hey CNN, how about a story on the underpants bomber pleading not guilty

    You mean like the one on the front page? The one that says "Christmas bomber pleads 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.
    Bushes Policies towards airport security have not been changed.

    The justice system we hold as the best in the world was good enough for the Bush administraion to try over 100 terror suspects but its suddenly not good enough now that Obama and the Dems have control?

    This is a perfect example of exactly what your leaders in the GOP are doing. Reacting without thought or intelligence.

    January 8, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. Here's the real GOP

    Who didn't think the GOP would go back to a white male figure???

    January 8, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  17. not alone

    Them teabaggers are going to love the boy for S.C. lol fits right in with there style.Racest and only thinking about their wallets.

    January 8, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. Rob R

    First Jindal, now Steele...another token down...Rubio is next...

    January 8, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. WIL

    Well Mr Steele I hope your book sales are strong because i can see the writing on the wall for you. The party that brought us Palin because they thought they would capture the female vote, elect an afician american to try to get that voter wait let me laugh a bit on that one ok both failed Mr Steele you lie down with dogs your are going to get fleas. Enjoy your last days you didn't really think they were going to fully except you you were used my man you were used make your next book a tell all you are about to have time on your hands. One unemployment stat i can't wait to see.

    January 8, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  20. james Miller

    The fact he hails from S.Caro. speaks volumes. Those people are poster children for " southern red-neck " and are closet racists---– And I am a 66yr old, White, Texan.

    January 8, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. WeThePeopleofVirginia

    I'm not ready to back Sara Palin for President, but she would make a grand Chairperson of the GOP.

    January 8, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. Richie

    Finally, an old white guy for the Old White Men Party.

    January 8, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. Too True For You

    Woohoo! Those South Carolina GOP nutjobs give us such great tabloid-worthy headlines, this should be entertaining!

    There was the family values hypcrite "I'm out hiking" Sanford, assistant Attorney General Roland "Outlaw Norplant, have sex with hookers" Corning, the anti-semites Bamberg County GOP Chairman Edwin Merwin and Orangeburg County GOP Chairman James Ulmer, Joe "I can't control myself" Wilson, Jim "party uber alles – let's get Obama " DeMint. This should be fun!

    January 8, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Keith in Austin

    Unbelievable that you elitist, know it all, left-wing minions relish in the fact that the GOP is discussing a "possible" alternative to Michael Steele! Wake up silly ones, Howard Dean is trashing your Healthcare fiasco, the Christmas Terrorist is now pleading innocence thanks to being "lawyered up" by Obozo's liberal weakness, KLM will make a mockery of the US on a worldwide stage during his Federal Trial in NYC and your Party is in 10 times the turmoil as the GOP!

    Let's try to curtail the misguided Liberal hatred and get out of our jammies, go to work and stop blaming your sorrowful existence on those that flip the bill for the majority of you expecting never-ending government entitlements!!! Your stranglehold on our Nation will come to an abrupt end in the coming elections. Be ready to get a life!

    January 8, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. Glenda

    OK, now we are insulting people for being white and male, that is just brilliant.

    January 8, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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