- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

Republican National Chairman Jim Gilmore disclosed plans to resign today after a one-year tenure marked by disappointing election results and internal party tensions.
Mr. Gilmore's departure, effective in mid-January, clears the way for President Bush to install a new party head in advance of 2002 elections, with control of Congress and three dozen statehouses at stake.
Moving quickly, the White House asked Republican leaders throughout the country for advice on a successor. Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, who came to Mr. Bush's aid during the Florida recount last year, is a leading contender for the job, GOP sources said. The names of several other prospects circulated, including Ann Wagner of Missouri, co-chairwoman of the RNC, and Jack Oliver, RNC deputy chairman.
Mr. Gilmore, whose term as Virginia governor expires early next year, said he was stepping down from the party post for family reasons. “Neither I nor my family can see any life at the end of this tunnel'' of an extensive national travel schedule, he said in a statement. He said that by staying, the demand “on my time and the burden on my family is only going to increase over the next year.''
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Gilmore called the president last night to inform him of his decision.
“He considers Governor Gilmore to be a good friend, and appreciated very much the fine job'' he did. Mr. Bush “also understands and respects the fact that a man wants to spend more time with his family,'' Mr. Fleischer added.
Sources said the White House had grown dissatisfied with Mr. Gilmore's performance at the RNC. The election was one issue, they said, but was not as significant as the friction between his camp and Bush allies at the RNC and the White House.
Several high-ranking GOP officials familiar with Mr. Bush's thinking, including some at the White House, said Mr. Gilmore had a hard time accepting direction from the White House. Jack Oliver, a top operative and fund-raiser for the Bush campaign, was installed at the RNC to run day-to-day operations and look out for the president's political interests; Mr. Gilmore often chafed at the deputy's power, officials said.
One Gilmore ally said the outgoing Virginia governor had chafed from the restrictions imposed by the White House and thought the job was no longer worth the financial and family sacrifices. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Gilmore and the White House had been discussing the governor's remaining at the RNC at least another year.
The planned departure comes less than a month after the party suffered the loss of two governorships in New Jersey and Gilmore's own Virginia in off-year elections.
Although GOP gubernatorial candidates were trounced in both New Jersey and Virginia earlier this month, Republicans elected Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York, a city with an overwhelming voter registration edge for Democrats.
“On Election Day, we did not suffer a wipeout,'' Mr. Gilmore said after the vote. “It was a split decision. We won the mayorship in New York, won a landslide in the Virginia House of Delegates, won judicial races in Pennsylvania, special elections in Missouri.''
He acknowledged the two governors' races were the contests everybody was watching.
Mr. Gilmore said he was personally unaware of criticism within the party ranks, and in a recent interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, disputed plans he would be stepping down. “That's not true. I'm looking forward to serving as RNC chairman, serving the president, raising the money necessary and moving ahead next year,'' Mr. Gilmore said.
And White House spokesman Fleischer had reaffirmed Mr. Bush's support for Mr. Gilmore.
Mr. Gilmore has said the biggest challenge in the 2002 elections could be Democrats running what they call “centrist'' campaigns that tend to blur differences with Republicans. The winners for governor in New Jersey and Virginia have been described as centrist Democrats.
“We have to guard against the day that all the Democratic candidates are running as conservative Republicans,'' Mr. Gilmore said.
The RNC holds its winter meeting in mid-January. It was not clear whether Mr. Bush would tap Mr. Gilmore's replacement by then.

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