Controversial Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who last month presided over the GOP's biggest electoral gains since 1938, announced Monday night that he is running for re-election.
Ending weeks of rumors that he would not seek a second term, Steele publicly threw his hat into the ring during a conference call this evening with RNC members.
"I ask for your support and your vote for a second term," he declared after going over his record and his vision for approximately fifty minutes -- in what at least one RNC member considered Steele's first re-election speech.
According to a copy of his prepared remarks, Steele alluded to his controversial gaffes as chairman: "Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda."
Steele is said to be amused by false reports of his retirement and intentionally kept his plans secret for the last month in order to flush out competitors for the post, Fox has learned.
During Steele's tenure, Republicans picked up 63 House seats in last month's elections, the biggest gain in more than seven decades. But Steele has been dogged by criticism from some Republicans who see him as prone to missteps.
Criticism of Steele has helped lead to a crowded field of challengers seeking to head the RNC. Among those who have officially announced they are in the race are Saul Anuzis, a committee member from Michigan who ran and lost to Steele in 2009, and Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, a former member of Steele's inner circle, along with former Luxembourg Ambassador Anne Wagner
Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official running RNC chairmanship, issued a statement following Steele's announcement that took a jab at Steele's record.
"What I've heard in my conversations with RNC members is that our party needs a leader who can rebuild our voter programs, reclaim our technology dominance and, most importantly, raise and responsibly manage the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to win in 2012," Cino said.
Former RNC Political Director under Steele Gentry Collins is reportedly flirting with a run.
Members of the Republican National Committee will select a chairman to lead the organization in January.
Jake Gibson and Chris Stirewalt contributed to this report.
Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent.