Gentry Collins, a former top aide to current Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele who resigned as political director of the RNC last month in protest of Steele’s leadership, officially announced his bid for chairman on Monday.
“My campaign for Chairman is based on a plan for the future, not a critique of the past,” Collins wrote in a letter to committee members. “I have a plan to strengthen our party, reclaim the RNC's place as the premier political organization in the country, and raise the resources we need to compete with President Obama’s fundraising machine.”
The announcement comes on the same day that Steele plans to announce his own decision on whether to run for re-election in a conference call with members of the committee. Many GOP insiders speculated that Steele would not seek a second term, however, a flurry of news reports late Monday indicated otherwise.
Collins becomes the fifth officially-declared candidate for the job. He joins Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan GOP; Ann Wagner, former head of the Missouri Republican Party; Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party; Maria Cino, a veteran of the Bush administration.
Collins quit his RNC post in mid-November and his resignation letter offered what amounted to a scathing assessment of Steele’s job performance.
Collins charged that the committee, under Steele's leadership, had “allowed its major donor base to wither,” spent far too much money on fundraising rather than winning elections and squandered opportunities to help Republican candidates in key races during the 2010 election cycle.
“Sadly, if left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority and elect a Senate majority,” Collins warned in a five-page memo addressed to Steele and circulated to members of the RNC executive committee.
“In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins wrote in the letter. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”
In his announcement message on Monday, Collins highlighted the support of several high-profile RNC committee members, including Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn and Connecticut GOP chair Chris Healy.
"Gentry Collins will provide leadership that the RNC needs to defeat the Obama political machine,” Strawn said in a statement. “Gentry's leadership will provide the focus, financing and expertise to both return the RNC to prominence and give the states the necessarytools to elect a Republican president.”
According to his campaign, Collins has already traveled to more than a dozen states to meet with committee members and is planning more in-person visits this week. Collins also said he planned to hold his own town hall conference call with RNC members on Tuesday.