[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/16/art.dawson.cnn.jpg caption=" Katon Dawson finished second to Michael Steele in the race for RNC chairman last year."]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.
Dawson announced his Hawaii trip last Friday, and told CNN that he would not close the door to another run at the chairmanship. The timing of that news - during a tumultuous week in which Republicans were publicly questioning Steele's leadership - raised suspicions among Steele allies that Dawson might be maneuvering behind-the-scenes to undercut the embattled chairman.
Several South Carolina Republicans also expressed concerns about Dawson's role.
South Carolina's position as the first-in-the-South presidential primary cannot be easily changed because it is currently written into RNC rules, but state GOP insiders worried that irritated RNC officials might come up with ways to limit the South Carolina party's influence, such as limiting their delegate allotment to the national convention or choosing not to hold RNC events in the state.
"The idea of [Dawson] going to Hawaii is problematic," said one influential state Republican who was granted anonymity to speak freely about internal party politics. "There was concern because who knows what Katon will say? When we are trying to maintain our first-in-the-South primary status, why take that chance?"
Another plugged-in South Carolina Republican added: "The second that something looks provocative at the national level, all of us are going to get together and pull back from it."
Dawson, who has been a fierce advocate for South Carolina's role in the nominating process and the financial boost it brings to the state, said he would never do anything to endanger the primary.
"If anyone would put that primary in jeopardy, it certainly wouldn't be Katon Dawson, because he is the one who helped put it there," Dawson said.