Steele Will Head RNC
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2009 4:00 PM CST
Michael Steele is congratulated by supporters after the announcement that he was elected the first black Republican National Committee chairman.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Michael Steele emerged from a grueling contest today to become the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, Politico reports. The six-ballot process, the most drawn-out in years, ended in the rare election of a non-member. “This is awesome,” the former Maryland lieutenant governor said, drawing a laugh. He said he  accepted the post with “a great deal of humility and a sense of service.”

In the final round of voting, Steele’s celebrity won out over South Carolina Republican stalwart Katon Dawson’s credentials. The possibility of a sea change for the GOP was not lost on RNC members—one of whom said, “This may be the most important decision we ever make." Said the new chair in his victory speech: “It’s time for something completely different."