Two More Candidates Enter RNC Chairmanship Fray

The field of official candidates aiming to replace Michael Steele at the top of the RNC expanded by two over the weekend, with former George W. Bush Transportation Department official Maria Cino and former Bush administration Ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner announcing fundraising campaigns.

Both women have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Steele for several weeks, part of a growing cadre of Republicans hoping to ride dissatisfaction with Steele’s first term as RNC chair to the top of the GOP central committee. Each has now set up a framework to raise the money required to mount a national campaign for the chair, which will be selected by the RNC’s 168 voting members in mid-January.

As Politico reported this morning, Cino has launched a 527 under the name “Maria For Chairman.” The Missourian newspaper reported on Friday that Wagner has also “set up a fundraising committee.”The women enter a crowded field that at this point only has one official candidate, former Michigan Republican Party chair Saul Anuzis has also announced his candidacy. Many others are said to be thinking about competing for Steele’s job, which many Republicans view as up for grabs after a term filled with gaffes most insiders would rather forget.

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Both Cino and Wagner bring powerful allies to their race for chair. Cino, who is a well-connected lobbyist for Pfizer, has the backing of Mary Cheney, daughter of the former vice president. The Washington Post reports Cino is a “good friend” of incoming House Speaker John Boehner, though Boehner’s office says he’ll be staying out of the chair race, officially at least.

Wagner is a former co-chair of the RNC and just finished her stint as Sen.-elect Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) campaign chair.

Both women are also well-versed in the nuts and bolts of Republican bureaucracy, a skill most of Steele’s critics say he’s lacking. Wagner chaired the Missouri GOP and Cino was among the top leadership of the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis.