Michael Stephen Steele (born October 19, 1958) is an American politician who served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee from January 2009 until January 2011. From 2003 to 2007, he was the seventh Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland. During his time as Lieutenant Governor, he chaired the Minority Business Enterprise taskforce, actively promoting an expansion of affirmative action in the corporate world. In 2006, Steele made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, losing to Democrat Ben Cardin. He then served as chairman of GOPAC, the political training organization of the Republican party, was a political commentator for Fox News and a partner at the law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf before making his bid for RNC Chairman. He co-founded the Republican Leadership Council, a "fiscally conservative and socially inclusive" political action committee, in 1993. On December 13, 2010, he announced his intentions to seek a second term as Republican National Committee Chair. On January 14, 2011, after four rounds of voting, Steele dropped out of the race and endorsed Maria Cino. Reince Priebus went on to win the election to succeed Steele. He commenced as a columnist for online magazine The Root in May 2011.
Steele was born on October 19, 1958 at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, Maryland and was adopted as an infant by William and Maebell Steele.
William died in 1962. Maebell who had been born into a sharecropping family in South Carolina, worked for minimum wage as a laundress to raise her children. After Michael's father died, she ignored her friends' appeals to apply for public assistance, later telling Michael 'I didn't want the government raising my children'. She later married John Turner, a truck driver. Michael and his sister, Monica Turner, were raised in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C. which Steele has described as a small, stable and racially integrated community that insulated him from some of the problems elsewhere in the city. Steele's sister later married and divorced former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Steele attended Archbishop Carroll Roman Catholic High School in Washington, D.C., participating in the Glee Club, the National Honor Society and many of the school's drama productions. During his senior year, he was elected student council president. After graduating, Steele spent three years preparing for the Catholic priesthood at the Augustinian Friars Seminary at Villanova University, teaching high school classes in world history and economics for one year at Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. He left the seminary prior to taking the priestly vows. Steele listens during then-Vice President Dick Cheney's address at the Second Annual African American Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, April 28, 2004. He then enrolled at the Georgetown University Law Center, attending classes at night and receiving his Juris Doctor in 1991. He failed the Washington D.C. bar exam, but then passed the Pennsylvania bar exam. Steele was employed as a corporate securities associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. From 1991 to 1997, he specialized in financial investments for Wall Street underwriters, working at Cleary's Tokyo, Japan office on major product liability litigation and at its London office on corporate matters. He left the law firm and founded the Steele Group, a business and legal consulting firm.
After joining the Republican Party, he became chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee. He was a founding member of the centrist, fiscally conservative and socially inclusive Republican Leadership Council in 1993 but left in 2008 citing disagreements over endorsing primary candidates, though detractors contend that his departure was a politically convenient effort to boost his chances of becoming the RNC chair. In 1995, the Maryland Republican Party selected him as their Republican Man of the Year. He worked on several political campaigns, was an Alternate Delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention and a Delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention. In December 2000, he was elected chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, becoming the first African American ever to be elected chairman of any state Republican Party.
Lieutenant Governor of Maryland
In 2002, Robert Ehrlich, who was running for Maryland Governor, selected Steele as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor. The campaign was waged against Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was running for Governor and Charles R. Larson who was running for Lieutenant Governor. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, Steele gave the Republican counterpoint to Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address; it was Steele's first major national exposure. In April 2005, President Bush chose him to be a member of the U.S. delegation at the investiture of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City.
In February 2007, Steele became chairman of GOPAC, a political action committee that helps fund state and local Republican campaigns around the country and is responsible for training future Republican candidates. He succeeded former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts, a fellow black Republican. In April 2007, Steele joined the international law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf, as a partner in the firm's Washington, D.C. office. Steele is considered a possible candidate for Governor of Maryland in the future, and has said he's "intrigued by the idea". He has said that he will not run for President in 2012. Steele appeared several times on HBO's political show Real Time with Bill Maher, and was on Comedy Central's talk show The Colbert Report on January 23, 2007. He also hosted a PBS Republican Primary debate in Baltimore, Maryland on September 27, 2007. He coined the phrase "Drill Baby Drill" during the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota, where he promoted offshore drilling as an alternative to dependency on foreign oil.
On November 24, 2008 Steele launched his campaign for the RNC chairmanship with the launching of his website. On January 30, 2009, Steele won the chairmanship of the RNC in the sixth round, with 91 votes to Dawson's 77. Steele, the Republican Party's first African American chief, was selected in the aftermath of President Obama's election, when many in the GOP saw him as a charismatic counter to the first black president. In December 2010, Steele declared that he would run for re-election as RNC chair. The 2011 Republican National Committee (RNC) chairmanship election was held on January 14, 2011, to determine the next chairman of the RNC, who will serve a two-year term ending in 2013 and will lead the party through the 2012 general elections. After seven rounds of balloting, Reince Priebus was elected chairman over incumbent chair Michael Steele, Saul Anuzis, Ann Wagner and Maria Cino.
Steele's book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, was released on January 4, 2010; it was published by Regnery Publishing. The Associated Press reported that, "Steele focuses much of the book on familiar GOP denunciations of President Barack Obama's overall policies (a roadmap to failure), the $787 billion stimulus bill (a reckless, wasteful, pork-laden spending spree), liberal views on manmade global warming (A threat to life on Earth? Depends on whom you ask) and other issues. To regain the public confidence, Steele says the GOP should, among other things, expose the reign of error inherent in liberal policies, contrast conservative and liberal principles, and highlight the damage caused by Obama's policies while explaining conservative solutions."
February 18, 2010