Former state GOP head wants Republican Party to ‘get back to basics’

Ann Wagner, running for RNC head

Ann Wagner, running for RNC head Photo by The Associated Press.

Former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner launched a campaign Monday to become head of the Republican National Committee.

Wagner announced her candidacy in an online video addressed to RNC members in which she said the GOP’s central committee must become “efficient, relevant, professional and credible” as it seeks to challenge President Barack Obama and build congressional majorities in 2012.

Although Republicans gained seats in Congress and many statehouses in this November’s elections, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has come under criticism from some Republicans for his management of the national party, which some party members believe spent too much and raised too little. Steele has not said whether he will seek another term when the RNC holds its leadership elections in January.

Wagner served as chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party from 1999 until she was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg by former President George W. Bush in 2005. She held that position until Obama became president in 2009. She also was co-chairwoman of the RNC from 2001 to 2005.

Wagner noted that during her tenure in charge of the Missouri GOP, Republicans gained control of the state Legislature, won U.S. Senate and governor’s elections, expanded the number Republican-held congressional seats and delivered Missouri’s electoral votes to Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

“In Missouri, I have been at the very center of the effort to turn a battleground state into a reliably red state,” Wagner said.

As RNC chairwoman, Wagner said she would make fundraising the first priority and pledged greater transparency and accountability in the RNC’s budget and expenditures.

“At the same time, we need to get ‘back to basics’ and field a grass-roots program that works closely with state parties and aggressively funds state victory programs,” she said.

Wagner said she wants to implement a well-financed system of “micro-targeting” prospective voters. She wants to tailor programs to each states’ election laws that would allow the GOP to keep in regular contact with people and turn them out to vote on Election Day.

Wagner is the second person to officially enter the race for RNC chairman. RNC member Saul Anuzis of Michigan, who lost a bid for the chairmanship two years ago, announced earlier this month that he will again run for the top spot. Others also are considering the race.

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