Published January 31, 2009
Newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele said he is focused on three races in his effort to rebuild the GOP after it endured worrying losses in November's elections that gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House.
Steele, Maryland's former lieutenant governor and the first black to head the RNC, said one of the most critical battles for the GOP is to capture New York's 20th congressional seat formerly held by U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
"It is the first of a series of races that are coming up that are going to be incredibly important," Steele said in remarks Saturday to the Republican House Retreat in Hot Springs, Va.
Steele said he will be in New York next week for a meeting with Republican state leadership to "map out the strategy to take that seat."
"That win will send a powerful signal to the rest of the country and especially those folks in the elite media who think they know so much more than the rest of us," he said.
"Our game is not up ... our message still rings true with countless Americans, specifically with those in the 20th congressional district," he added.
The Republican chairman said the GOP's second focus will be on winning the governorship in both Virginia and New Jersey, along with other state offices.
"That is our fight," he said of the two races.
Steele also stressed the importance of winning "reapportionment races at the state level."
"We got a lot of work ahead of us," he said. "We've got to map a strategy to preserve what we have, take what we want and continue to move forward ... (and) reaffirm and reestablish with the American people a sense of trust, a sense of commitment, a sense of opportunity."
Steele was elected as the RNC chairman on Friday, defeating the incumbent party chief and three other challengers over six rounds of voting to become the first black to lead the GOP.
"As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome," said Steele, the most moderate candidate in the field.
Steele, who had been considered an outsider by some because he was not a committee member, struck a tone of inclusiveness in his brief acceptance speech Friday.
"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be a part of us, we want you to with be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," he said.
Steele replaces Mike Duncan, who abandoned his re-election bid in the face of dwindling support midway through Friday's voting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.