WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican Party chose the first black national chairman in its history Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first African-American president. The choice marked no less than "the dawn of a new party," declared the new GOP chairman, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.
Republicans chose Steele over four other candidates, including former President George W. Bush's hand-picked GOP chief, who bowed out declaring, "Obviously the winds of change are blowing."
Martin County, Kentucky native Mike Duncan bowed out of consideration following extensive criticism from party members nationwide following the party's worst showing, especially among blacks, in decades.
Steele takes the helm of a beleaguered Republican Party that is trying to recover after crushing defeats in November's national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress put Barack Obama in the White House.
GOP delegates erupted in cheers and applause when his victory was announced, but it took six ballots to get there. He'll serve a two-year term.
Steele, an attorney, is a conservative, but he was considered the most moderate of the five candidates running.
He was also considered an outsider because he's not a member of the Republican National Committee. But the 168-member RNC clearly signaled it wanted a change after eight years of Bush largely dictating its every move as the party's standard-bearer.