[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/29/art.duncan29.gi.jpg caption="RNC chair Mike Duncan faces a tough race to keep the top spot."](CNN) - Members of the Republican National Committee are planning to hold a Washington forum for candidates to lead the party – the first time they have held an official meeting not arranged by the national party.
The meeting, first reported by The Hill, was the brainchild of North Dakota Republican Party chairman Gary Emineth and nearly two dozen RNC members from 18 states, according to the RNC counsel’s office.
Most of those are supporters of one of the challengers to current RNC chair Mike Duncan. The newly-scheduled forum – which was not arranged by national leadership, headed by Duncan - may give a boost to these candidates, who will get an opportunity to make their pitch to the members of the national committee.
Under RNC rules, a minimum of 16 members from 16 different states is required to hold an official meeting – but CNN has not been able to find any prior instance when this rule has been invoked.
The meeting comes in a week of faceoffs and public grillings for RNC chair hopefuls - some open to the public, others private events for conservatives and party members.