**UPDATE: New GOP Chairman Ed Cox told Capital Tonight in December that RNC Chairman Michael Steele involved the national party organization in New York’s GOP governor’s primary.
Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller hosted the first Republican National Committee Chairman candidates debate at the National Press Club on Monday afternoon. RNC Chairman Michael Steele defended his time at the helm of the GOP organization.
One particular remark from the RNC incumbent that stoked the anger of New York State Republican Chairman Ed Cox was Mr. Steele’s insistence that the RNC should never insert itself in the politics of state party primaries.
Mr. Cox later told me Chairman Steele involved the RNC in the New York State GOP Governor’s primary last year. When Chairman Steele said, “my reaction was that I shook my head in disbelief. The RNC was intensely involved in the selection process in a candidate that lost overwhelmingly in the end,” said Chairman Cox.
The Republican governor’s primary became sticky after Mr. Cox endorsed a former Democratic now Republican Suffolk County chairman Steve Levy for governor. According to Chairman Cox, the RNC got involved when it threw its support behind former New York Republican Congressman Rick Lazio. Mr. Lazio wound up winning at the New York GOP Convention but was trounced in the primary by Carl Paladino.
“The regional director and the paid agent of the Republican National Committee was intensely involved in our convention and our designation process in our candidate for governor. So there was no doubt in that the RNC was very much involved in our candidate selection process,” Mr. Cox explained.
I followed up with Mr. Steele on his initial remark and asked about the accusation that he involved the RNC in the New York State GOP Governor’s primary, to which he said: “No we did not. That’s incorrect.”
Chairman Cox was also disappointed with what he thought was Steele’s less than impressive attention the RNC paid to New York State for the Congressional mid-term elections. New York won the most Congressional Republican pick ups of all fifty states.
We won six [Congressional races]. Ohio and Pennsylvania won 5. Others had four, but we won more but he campaigned for none of our candidates except for Michael Faulkner up in Harlem,” explained Mr. Cox.
“Mr. Faulkner was taking on Charlie Rangel. He [Steele] told us that Mr. Faulkner, the Republican candidate, was four percentage points behind Charlie Rangel. We got very excited that the national chairman of the party said that,” Mr.Cox told me.
Mr. Faulkner, a black Republican and former football player for the New York Jets was paid a visit by the RNC’s “Fire Pelosi” bus during election time.
“He [Steele] had obviously taken polls that we weren’t aware of. Given Charlie Rangel’s scandals, and the fact that he [Rangel] is no longer chairman of the ways and means committee, we thought that maybe this was possible. And so we started putting resources there when we could’ve put them elsewhere, of course,” remarked the New York Chair.
“Mr. Faulkner only got about 10 percent. He clearly wasn’t within four percent. It was just bad information. Maybe it was just bad staff work. Whatever it was it was information we acted on,” the New York State GOP Chairman lamented.
Chairman Cox announced his support for fellow New Yorker Maria Cino for RNC Chair in late December.