RNC's Michael Steele Challenged By Ex-Backer

President Bush, Saul Anuzis

President Bush in 2008 being introduced by Saul Anuzis who will challenge Michael Steele for RNC chair.  Paul Sancya/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Paul Sancya/AP Photo

A top Michigan Republican has officially announced that he will run against controversial Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.

Saul Anuzis, once head of the Michigan Republican Party, supported Steele for the chairmanship the last time around.

But Anuzis, chairman of a telecommunications and Internet company he founded, says the stakes are too high for Steele to remain chair heading into a general election.

In a blog post, he writes:

I don’t take lightly the fact that I am challenging a friend and colleague for the Chairmanship. When Michael was elected Chairman, I was the only candidate who stepped forward to attend the next morning’s RNC breakfast meeting, agreed to join the transition team, and later took on several roles as a team player on the RNC…and have attended every meeting since.

Given my involvement and efforts to help over the past two years, it was not an easy decision for me to seek the post.  As someone who believes in loyalty, my natural instinct would be to sit this out.  But the simple fact is that the overriding challenge we face is winning back the Presidency in 2012 and we will not accomplish that objective unless there is dramatic change in the way the RNC does business.

As Anuzis lays out his case for his candidacy, he takes a tacit slap at Steele, saying:

I will NOT strive to be the voice or the face of our party.  Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media, but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket.  Instead, I will work with our elected leaders around the country to give them maximum exposure and guarantee a consistent message that leads us to victory.

At the start of his term, Steele was criticized for being too high profile, a controversial distraction.

But there've been plenty of other controversies, including some of the comments he's made about other Republicans and his blaming President Obama for the Afghanistan War, a war supported by most Republican leaders.

Meanwhile, the head of the Wisconsin GOP, Reince Priebus and someone who in the past backed Steele, is reportedly considering a run against Steele, too.

And there are more. NBC News' First Read blog reports:

Among other potential candidates for the RNC post are former Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, South Carolina GOP leader Katon Dawson, and former presidential candidate Fred Thompson. Current RNC Chairman Mike Duncan also has signaled he may run for re-election in January. 

Anuzis is a Reagan follower with an atypical background. He grew up in Detroit as the son of a member of the UAW.  While paying his way through college at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, he himself joined a union, the Teamsters. His political interest was sparked in college during the ascension of Ronald Reagan, and in the 1980s, Anuzis went on to help build the modern Republican Party in Michigan. 

In the 1990s, he left politics to own Quick Connect USA, a telecommunications firm providing local, long distance, VOIP, Internet, and data services to residential and small businesses throughout Michigan.

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