- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot is President Bush's choice to succeed Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III as Republican National Committee chairman, White House officials said privately last night.
The sources, who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity, also said the decision had been made late last week.
Several members of the RNC told The Times that the White House had notified them as early as last Friday of its intention to pick Mr. Racicot.
The committee members said they knew relatively little about Mr. Racicot but generally had a good impression of him and would vote for him as chairman of the 165-member committee at its annual meeting in Austin, Texas, in January.
But some conservatives were less than pleased with the choice of Mr. Racicot, 53, who was born in Montana and served as governor from 1993 to 2001.
Conservative, pro-life RNC member Tim Lambert of Texas, normally an intensely loyal Bush supporter, told The Times yesterday, "Racicot would not have been my first choice."
Other conservatives would prefer that Mr. Racicot instead run for the Senate next year against Sen. Max Baucus, who is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2002.
Mr. Lambert, unsure of Mr. Racicot's commitment to the pro-life position on abortion, said he and other conservatives would have preferred Reps. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma or Henry Bonilla of Texas.
Mr. Lambert remains a strong supporter of Mr. Gilmore's, saying, "He understood party grass roots, was an activist. He was one of us."
"I don't know much about him except the fine role he played in the Florida recount last year, and the brief time he was mentioned as President Bush's possible pick for attorney general," said Virginia Republican Party Chairman Gary Thompson. "But the RNC chairman's job is a leadership role, named by the president, and therefore the president's core belief and policies will determine how the chairman leads the party. And I have full confidence in President Bush."
Mr. Racicot had helped persuade Mr. Bush to run for the Republican presidential nomination when Mr. Bush was governor of Texas. He then campaigned assiduously for Mr. Bush.
By February of this year, however, conservatives had sought to derail a possible nomination of Mr. Racicot as attorney general, a job they wanted to go to Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating or former Sen. John Ashcroft both of whom were solid on issues dear to social conservatives.
Mr. Racicot took himself out of the running for the attorney general's post, which went to Mr. Ashcroft, and took a job with a law firm in Washington.
He built a moderately conservative record as Montana governor. He cut spending and produced a $22 million surplus, which he returned to taxpayers in the form of a 7 percent income tax rebate. His 1994 welfare-reform plan produced sharp drops in the welfare rolls two yeas later.
But as governor, he also vetoed paycheck-protection legislation to bar labor unions from using compulsory union dues for political purposes without the explicit permission of each union member. He also told the Montana legislature that he would veto a school-choice bill.
Another reason some conservatives opposed Mr. Racicot was his opposition to a 1998 referendum requiring a popular vote for any tax increase. When it passed, he successfully argued against it in the state Supreme Court.
Like Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Racicot is a close friend of Mr. Bush. Mr. Racicot demonstrated his loyalty to the president and his effectiveness during last year's Florida presidential-election recount wars.
A Racicot supporter close to the Bush administration told The Times yesterday that Mr. Racicot is "deeply pro-life."
The supporter, who asked not to be identified, said that as governor, Mr. Racicot signed bills banning partial-birth abortion, and requiring parental consent and a waiting period before an abortion. He was endorsed by the Montana Right to Life Committee.
Mr. Gilmore announced Friday that he will resign next month as national party chairman. He is expected to take a job with a law firm, and to run for governor in 2005. His term as governor ends in January and state law forbids his seeking a consecutive term.
After his election as president, Mr. Bush chose Mr. Gilmore for RNC chairman, a post he will leave after having served one year of a two-year term.
He battled with White House chief political strategist Karl Rove, who had expected Mr. Gilmore to be a figurehead and party spokesman but not to run the RNC. But Mr. Gilmore installed his own loyalists in key posts at committee headquarters in Washington.
No such turf battle is expected with Mr. Racicot.

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