January 8th, 2010
01:22 PM ET
4 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. disgusted

    If you don't remember who this guy is, read up on him. PURGE THE MODERATES. That will help.

    Hey, can anyone tell me when the party of small government and fiscal responsibility actually practiced what they preach? 'Cause I'm OLD and I have never seen it.

    January 8, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Doc in Virginia

    I look at Steele, I see a clown. Steele looks at Steele and sees 'Shaft.' The GOP look at Steele and see buyer's remorse.

    January 8, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. W l Jones

    Well let^see Hawaii not a state remember! a year ago anyone born their had to have his or her birth certicite vertfy whether they were an American. It appears they will be traveling at tax payer expense which is aganist the law in our country.

    January 8, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Republicans don't want that "boy" Steele in there anymore.

    January 8, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. Carmelle

    Saw that coming months ago! LOL

    But on a serious note, I think Michael Steele is a double agent for the DNC and to top it...he wrote a book on how the GOP should come back to power (like he knows, ha!) and he gets paid for speeches. he knew his time would come so he pimped the RNC just like the pimped him.

    Funny stuff!

    January 8, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Carol

    Actually South Carolina is beautiful state, and some of the people are, too. Too bad they've gotten such a bad rep. because of Republicans.

    January 8, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. Kevin

    To see the Head Of the RNC, Neo Cons, and THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AS A WHOLE, destroy themselves form the inside out, you gotta love it if you're a Dem/Lib like me.

    Looks like it's going to be a easy win for the Dems/Libs in 2010.

    Keep up the good work, REPUKES!!!!!

    January 8, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. The Film Professor

    Oh by all means, let's elect someone from the Palmetto State to run the GOP instead of Steele!! This wonderful backwater has after all provided us with luminaries like Governor "Appalachian Trail" Sanford, the boorish Congressman Wilson, and the late beloved Senator Thurmond, the Dixiecrat who fathered a child with a black woman (and the state that helped defeat McCain in 1980 because of rumors that he had done the same thing, only later to be corrected to having adopted a non-white child)..

    What a great state! Yahoo, you guys make us'uns over here in Jaw-juh look progressive by comparison.

    January 8, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Libertarian

    Methinks he's been working behind the scenes for a while trying to derails things. Think he was wearing his white sheet as a hood while doing it?

    January 8, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation)

    Not surprised that Steele will be muscled out so an old white guy can take over. Steele was a token minority for the GOP.

    Meanwhile the GOP's only plan is to keep lying to the American people, today it was Rudy's turn...... there were no domestic terrorist attacks under Bush's watch.

    1. NYC Twin Towers
    2. Pentagon
    3. Anthrax (domestic guy)
    4. Richard Reed the shoe-bomber, whom the Bush Regime tried under U.S. Judicial system & is now in a maximum security prison in CO.

    Nope........ no terrorist attacks under Bush!

    January 8, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. Len in Washington

    Wonderful! I LOVE it.
    Come on, GOP, FLAUNT you idiocy!

    January 8, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. erp

    We won't need somebody pining to see old friends again. We need somebody pining to knock heads together, purge RINO's and put conservatives on the ballot all over the country.

    It's already too late for the congressional seat in upstate New York and the Massachusetts senatorial candidate is flying solo.

    Not a cent to these, go along to get alongers.

    Is there anyone out there who wants to lead us to victory.

    Cancel the convention in Hawaii.

    Have it in Texas and have it next week.

    January 8, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    and the feeding frenzie begins , the republicans will wipe themselves out by eating each other , kind of like perana when one of them is wounded . the others will eat him or her .. like Palin ouch ! what a way to go ,your own people turn on you LOL LOL LOL :)

    January 8, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. Bob of Lompoc

    Yet more Southern White Males. Makes sense. That is what The Republican Party is, a Political party Of White Males, and it will have a new name: Not The Party Of Lincoln – "The Party Of Lieberman". Good bye GOP, it's been good to know ya!

    January 8, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. EX-SC PUB

    They are going to Hawaii? The very same foreign country where our illegal alien President was not born? The same place where PAINlin wore a John McCain (X-out) hat so as not to be recognized; and the same place where fat Rush faked a heart attack in order to make political hay over health reform?
    I just find this difficult to believe.

    January 8, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. Tim

    Steele is toast!!! Brother still here??? NOT!!!!

    January 8, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. ART

    I cannot wait for the next tea party get together by then i would of retrieved my white sheets and my white hood from the cleaners. It was so refreshing to hear sen Grayham blaming the African Americans for his state having to come up with an extra 1 billion dollars for medical coverage for the 30% of his state that are black not to mention that the 12% unemployment rate was also basically their fault. What an offernsive man he is

    January 8, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. Squigman

    Regardless, this party cares not what happens to the country or the people, what matters most is who's in charge. It would be a blessing if the entire republican party would turn on itself and achieve complete distruction.

    January 8, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. REPUBLICANS LIE

    No surprise . Just another America hating neo-fascist representing today's Republicrap party.

    January 8, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. byron

    how can they be flying to hawaii when millions of people are unemployed???? or is Obama the only one who is not supposed to vacation?

    January 8, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  21. if you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    I knew they could find a white guy that is more like a republican.

    January 8, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Mike in Montana

    I will 'not' return to the Republican Party until Michael Steele is 'gone' ! However.., if the Democratic Party keeps going the way that they are going.., we may 'not' have a two party system. Mike in Montana

    January 8, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. Dan Sczepanski, New York

    When Katon Dawson says the Repukes will come very close to gaining back the majority, I hope he sends me a sample of what he is smoking. LOL!!!!

    January 8, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. Nevada dude

    Its very amusing to see the Republicans being more disfunctional than the democrats for a change.

    January 8, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Rob R

    here's a funny one: Bumper sticker "Extremely Right Wing"...on an Audi! (Is that an American car?)....confused.

    January 8, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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