- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

Jack Oliver, a conservative with close ties to Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft and President-elect George W. Bush, is expected to be named to a senior Republican Party post by incoming Republican National Committee Chairman James S. Gilmore III.

Mr. Oliver, who raised $3 million for Mr. Ashcroft in his 1994 Missouri Senate race, is in line to serve as deputy chief of staff or deputy chairman under Mr. Gilmore, The Washington Times has learned.

Mr. Gilmore, the popular governor of Virginia who campaigned effectively for Mr. Bush, will have a new team of officers at the RNC studded with trusted loyalists of Mr. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney.

Party officials told The Washington Times that Mr. Gilmore's choice for RNC co-chairman is Ann Wagner, an RNC member from Missouri and a friend of Mr. Oliver. Al Hoffman, Florida finance chairman for Mr. Bush's campaign and for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's 1994 campaign, is Mr. Gilmore's pick for RNC finance chairman.

Wyoming RNC member Tom Sansonetti is Mr. Gilmore's choice for general counsel. Kentucky RNC member Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, a Bush campaign regional political director, is Mr. Gilmore's candidate for treasurer. For RNC secretary, Mr. Gilmore will name North Carolina RNC member Linda O. Shaw.

These choices will be announced as early as Wednesday, as the RNC gathers here this week for its annual winter meeting.

Mr. Oliver, a native of Cape Girardeau, Mo., has become known and trusted by the economic and social conservatives that make up Mr. Ashcroft's political base.

After Mr. Ashcroft dropped out of contention for the Republican presidential nomination early in 1999 in order to concentrate on his Senate re-election race, Mr. Oliver became finance director for Mr. Bush's nomination campaign.

Working as the top deputy to Bush campaign finance chairman Don Evans, Mr. Oliver helped raise record-shattering contributions for Mr. Bush's primary run and then for the general election as finance director for the party's Victory 2000 committee.

The 165-member RNC is expected to vote this week to change its rules to allow Mr. Gilmore to serve as national chairman, normally a full-time, paid position. In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Gilmore will serve out his constitutionally limited single term as governor, which expires next January, while also serving as the party's national chairman.

The committee is expected to formally elect him and his slate of candidates for other elected RNC posts on Thursday.

Mr. Bush considered naming Mr. Gilmore to the figurehead role of general chairman of the RNC and giving the top elected post of chairman to someone else. But that would have made Mr. Gilmore a national party spokesman without the power to hire and fire staff.

Mr. Gilmore wanted and eventually won that power in discussions with Mr. Bush and his top aides, party officials said.

Mr. Gilmore argued that he needed to be able to structure the RNC into the kind of effective political weapon nationally that he had made the Virginia Republican Party statewide. Since his election, the Virginia GOP has won control of both houses of the state legislature and all statewide elected offices.

Republicans consider Mr. Gilmore one of the most astute politicians in the party and a tax-cutting conservative who can be relied on to represent the party's principles and policies without unnecessarily alienating competing power centers in his own party and among Democrats.

Both Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Bush have sought to broaden the base of the Republican Party. Mr. Gilmore and his wife flew to Atlanta Saturday to tour the Martin Luther King Center with Dexter King, the late civil rights leader's youngest son, and to meet privately with Coretta Scott King, his widow.

Mr. Gilmore will succeed Jim Nicholson, an RNC member from Colorado who won the first of his two successive two-year terms as RNC chairman in a multicandidate contest after President Bush lost the White House to President Clinton in 1992. Mr. Nicholson inherited an RNC that was in debt and leaves it well in the black, even after raising and spending record amounts of money on the 2000 elections.

Friends say Mr. Nicholson, a retired Army Ranger and decorated Vietnam War veteran, hopes Mr. Bush will name him ambassador to Italy, Ireland or the Vatican or Army chief of staff in that order of preference.


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