Winds of change: Republicans elect first Black party chairman (Second Lead)

January 31st, 2009 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 31 (IANS) Less than three months after Democrat Barack Obama was elected as America’s first Black president, the defeated Republican Party has chosen an African American as its national chairman for the first time in its history.The choice marked no less than “the dawn of a new party”, declared the new Republican party chairman, former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, after his election Friday.

Republicans chose Steele over four other candidates, including former President George W. Bush’s hand-picked party chief, Mike Duncan, who bowed out declaring: “Obviously the winds of change are blowing”.

Steele takes the helm of a beleaguered Republican Party that is trying to recover after crushing defeats in November’s national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress and put Obama in the White House.

Steele also told his fellow party members that it will be a “great honour to spar” with President Obama.

For the duration of his campaign, Steele fought perceptions that he was too moderate to lead the party because of his blue-state roots and his former membership in the Republican Leadership Council, a group that sought to curb the influence of social conservatives in the party.

Steele brings a national profile to the committee, having shot to fame in the political world during an underdog Senate bid in 2006 distinguished by a series of clever TV commercials.

With Republicans out of the White House and in the minority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994, the new chairman will have an uncommonly powerful role in revitalizing the beleaguered party.

Kishan Putta, co-founder of the bipartisan Indians For McCain grassroots movement, said just as they “were proud to see Barack Obama sworn in as the first African-American president of the United States, we are also proud today to see Michael Steele elected to chair his party”.

“Today’s news is a positive reminder that both parties value the contributions of Indian-Americans to our nation,” he said.

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