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Slay backs Wagner for RNC chief, amid Steele's plans to seek another term

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 14, 2010 - St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat, is supporting prominent Missouri Republican Ann Wagner quest to be chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Tweeted the mayor today: "I think it matters to Missouri and to #STL who the RNC chair is. Rooting for Ann Wagner."

Wagner called Monday night for the Republican National Committee to freeze all spending, all hiring and all new contracts until it selects a new chairman. Her comments followed the surprise announcement by beleaguered RNC chairman Michael Steele that he is seeking another two-year term

"I welcome Michael Steele to the race," said Wagner, among a crowd of rivals seeking to replace him. "But this is not about Michael Steele; it is about a fully funded, fully functional RNC and winning in 2012.

"I am urging the committee to immediately freeze any new spending, new contracts, new appointments and new hiring until a new chair is elected. If elected, my first actions will include an ambitious fundraising plan to retire the RNC's massive debt and a full audit of the RNC's financial operations and contracts."

She added, in a jab at Steele: "It is time to turn the page. We need a new direction and new leadership at the Republican National Committee. I believe my experience offers the full package of fundraising success, management skills, grassroots organizing, communications and a proven record of winning elections."

Earlier Monday, Wagner was campaigning in Indiana as she continued her appeals to the 168 voting members of the RNC who will decide next month who should lead the national party.

Wagner was assisted by a mailing sent to the members by one of their own, Memphis lawyer John Ryder, who endorsed Wagner as "the complete package'' who could turn the party around.

Still, Wagner faces obstacles, most especially Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the former RNC chairman who is putting his weight behind Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, now widely seen as the frontrunner for the national post.

But Wagner's allies maintain that Preibus has been too closely tied to Steele in the past.

The others seeking the RNC post include: former RNC political director Gentry Collins, former Bush administration transportation official Maria Cino, former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, and Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is also rumored to be preparing to launch a bid.

Anuzis is seen as a favorite of Tea Party activists, although most of the contenders -- including Wagner -- are lobbying for the movement's support.

Wagner, former head of the Missouri Republican Party and former co-chair of the RNC, has been emphasizing her prowess at raising money and targeting resources to key races. Steele has come under fire for the RNC's relatively small coffers in 2010; RNC spending was overshadowed by various conservative independent groups that raised and spent their own money for candidates, including U.S. Sen-elect Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Wagner was chairman of Blunt's campaign. She jumped back into politics after spending almost four years as then-President George W. Bush's ambassador to Luxembourg.

Wagner is raising money at her website, AnnWagner.com, to help finance her travels around the country to woo the Republican National Committee's 168 voting members (three from each of the 50 states and six territories). Allies have been telling local Republicans that Wagner needs $100,000.

Wagner also has touted her support from such prominent conservatives as Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly. Praise also has come from various prominent Missouri Republicans, including Blunt and former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent (who is expected to seek his old job in 2012).

Missouri Republicans contend that Wagner's election is vital to make sure that the state's GOP candidates in 2012 get adequate national attention and cash.