Maine Republican National Committeeman Mark Willis has failed to secure the support he needed to have his name placed in nomination for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC).
The election will be held today at the RNC winter meeting in Charlotte, NC. Willis had needed support from two committemen in three states to qualify. The incumbent chair, Reince Priebus, will now be re-elected unopposed.
Willis had criticized Priebus for the role he played in the RNC's 2012 election effort, charging that Priebus failed to embrace competitive bidding practices, relied too much on a well connected small group of consultants, and was unable to ensure that the party could compete technologically with the Democrats.
Until late Thursday, Willis believed he would receive support from the three states he needed. His own delegation from Maine was behind him, and two committeemen from Nevada had declared their support for his candidacy. Missouri and Idaho were additional states in which he was optimistic about securing the necessary two out of three committemen to back his nomination.
On Monday night, however, Priebus flew to Nevada to meet with Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald and Nevada National Committeman James Smack. Smack had previously supported Willis' candidacy. At the hastily arranged meeting, Priebus succeeded in persuading Smack to abandon his support for Willis. On Thursday, Smack described what happened at Monday's meeting with Priebus in Las Vegas:
“There were certainly some promises exchanged. We’re not talking about money. We’re talking about promises, though, that he’s going to work on getting some doors open for us that have been closed by whatever means--whether that be through some of the casino owners or what have you.”
Willis remained upbeat after the withdrawal of support, but suggested that the changes he recommended would be necessary elements for the future electoral success of the Republican Party:
Although we fell short and didn't get on the ballot, our ideas have received a lot of attention from RNC members who have taken the time to read my 8 point plan and discuss it with me. I will continue to raise issues and bring forth bold ideas that although may take some members out of their "comfort zone," are necessary for the Republican Party to win in 2014 and beyond.
Few, if any, of the 168 members of the Republican National Committee seemed willing to rock the boat or go beyond their "comfort zones" at the party's 2013 winter meetings. For Priebus, re-election may prove to be a pyrrhic victory unless he is able to turn the party's fortunes around dramatically in 2014 and beyond.