Washington (CNN) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney and a clutch of former George W. Bush advisers have a horse in the Republican National Committee chairman race: Maria Cino.
CNN has learned that Cheney will be among the hosts next Tuesday at a fundraiser to benefit Cino’s 527 group, which was formed last week so the former Bush administration official could start raising money for her RNC campaign. Cheney’s daughter Mary assisted in organizing the fundraising committee.
Cino served as a top Commerce Department official and Deputy Transportation Secretary under President Bush. She also worked at the RNC during Bush’s two terms and managed the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
The fundraiser will be held at the Virginia home of GOP strategist Mary Matalin and is hosted by several veterans of Bush-Cheney world, including former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, former New York Rep. Bill Paxon and former administration aides Melissa Bennett and Emily Lampkin.
The Buffalo native has yet to make her intentions official and will not be among the candidates participating in Wednesday’s RNC candidates forum organized by FreedomWorks and conservative members of the RNC.
But as the fundraiser makes clear, Cino is all but certain to jump in the race and could formally announce her bid at the end of next week. She is slated to participate in a closed-door interview session Thursday with the bloc of RNC conservatives.
The bold-faced names on the fundraising invite - particularly that of Gillespie, who is held in high regard among RNC insiders - could help burnish her reputation with committee members as she preps her bid.
Two candidates, Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis and former Missouri chairwoman Ann Wagner, have officially declared campaigns to replace RNC chairman Michael Steele, who has kept quiet on whether he plans to seek a second term.
Also seriously considering bids: ex-RNC political director Gentry Collins, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, Connecticut GOP chairman Chris Healy and former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who has ruled out a challenge to Steele but is nonetheless participating in the candidate interview session with RNC members on Thursday.