Washington (CNN) – Katon Dawson thought he was heading to Hawaii later this month to serve as South Carolina Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd's proxy at the Republican National Committee meeting. Dawson is still going, but he won't have Floyd's vote in his back pocket.
Dawson, who fought Michael Steele for the RNC chairmanship last year, said Wednesday he is "not ready to comment" on why he will not be the proxy - essentially a voting substitute for an absent RNC member. But the former South Carolina GOP chairman added that he still plans to attend the meeting in an unofficial capacity.
Several South Carolina Republicans tell CNN that there was concern that Dawson's presence in Hawaii as an official representative of the state party might anger Steele and his allies, possibly jeopardizing the state's influential role in the GOP presidential nominating process.
A spokesman for the South Carolina Republican party said Wednesday that while Floyd had asked Dawson several months ago to attend the Hawaii meeting, she did not ask him to be her proxy.
"The proxy was something that was never contemplated," said Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for the South Carolina GOP. "The plan had always been to send him in Karen's place because of his great institutional knowledge of the party and the RNC organization."
But last Friday, Dawson told CNN he was excited to make the trip as Floyd's proxy, which would give him an official vote at the RNC meeting.
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."
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - Former South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson is calling on Gov. Mark Sanford to cut a check from his campaign war chest to help repair the "serious damage" he has done to Republican fundraising efforts in the state.
Sanford, a prodigious fundraiser, is sitting on nearly $1.69 million in his gubernatorial election account, and he still has roughly $128,000 in his congressional account, according to his most recent campaign finance reports. New financial reports are due later this month.
But now that Sanford's political career has collapsed, his money is in limbo.
Under South Carolina law, Sanford could technically hang on to that money by transferring it to a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization of his choice or to a state-level political action committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson e-mailed members of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday afternoon, urging them to stand by their convictions in the aftermath of Arlen Specter's defection to the Senate Democratic caucus.
"If we as a party will stand by the conservative platform that built our party, if we will not only reform government but look to provide quality constituent service, and if our candidates will hold themselves to the highest ethical standards, I know that Republicans can win in every corner of this great country," he wrote in the e-mail, provided to CNN by a Republican source.
Dawson sought the RNC chairmanship in January, but lost to Michael Steele in the final round of balloting. The South Carolina party chief had strong support on the committee from some of the RNC's most conservative members, some of whom remain skeptical of Steele.
Although Specter's party switch is seen as a blow to Republicans in the Northeast and in the U.S. Senate, Dawson downplayed the news as a rush to judgment on the part of the "liberal media" intent on writing the "political obituary of the Republican party."
"Despite these bad headlines and temporary political setbacks, I believe the best days are ahead for the Republican Party," he wrote. To illustrate his claim, Dawson pointed to a victory in a State House special election in South Carolina on Tuesday, in which Republican Steve Moss defeated rival Tim Spencer in a district held by Democrats for three decades. Dawson said Moss proved that conservatives can win because voters liked that the candidate "said what he did, and did what he said."
"It really was that simple," he wrote. "And it's getting back to basics is something we can all learn from this special election."
Dawson told the RNC membership, which includes the chairs of every state Republican party, that they must make it priority to recruit and train conservative candidates with positive messages who focus on government ethics.
Dawson is stepping down from his post in May.