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Ex-RNC chief Michael Steele opts against governor bid

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Former Maryland Lt. Gov. and Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele will not run for governor in this year, closing the door on a potential political comeback.

Steele told The Baltimore Sun his family was not on board with a campaign.

“It’s not something the family wants me to do right now,” Steele told the newspaper. “My wife has never been a big fan of the political landscape. At the end of the day, you can’t be governor without the first lady.”

In an email to The Hill, Steele confirmed he would not run because of family considerations. He said he had not foreclosed the prospect of an eventual return to electoral politics.

“My wife was not up for that haul. Tough decision, but best for the family right now,” Steele wrote. “Fortunately, she did not close off a future run, so I’m still in the game, baby!”

Steele, 63, won a single term in office in 2002, alongside Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). He ran for an open Senate seat in 2006, when Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) retired, losing to Democrat Ben Cardin by a 10-point margin.

After Barack Obama’s presidential election, Steele won a competitive race to head the RNC, outlasting several insider candidates and the incumbent chairman, Michael Duncan of Kentucky. Steele oversaw the GOP’s campaign efforts in the 2010 midterm elections, when the party recaptured control of the House of Representatives.

But he lost a bid for another term in 2011 to Reince Priebus, then the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party and an erstwhile ally.

Steele, who once trained for the Catholic priesthood, has become a staunch critic of former President Trump. He joined The Lincoln Project, the group of anti-Trump Republican strategists who mounted advertisements against the sitting president ahead of the 2020 elections, and became a regular contributor on MSNBC.

His exit leaves Republicans in Maryland to choose between state Del. Dan Cox, who has won Trump’s backing, and former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, the two leading contenders in the race to succeed two-term Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Hogan, another veteran of the Ehrlich administration, won two elections as a centrist Republican in a typically blue state.

The Democratic side of the Maryland gubernatorial race is packed with big-name contenders, including two former members of Obama’s Cabinet, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and former Education Secretary John King. Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, former Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker, former Anne Arundel County executive Laura Neuman, state Comptroller Peter Franchot and nonprofit executive Wes Moore are also running.

–Updated at 1:11 p.m.

Tags Barack Obama Ben Cardin Donald Trump Maryland Maryland governor race Michael Steele Reince Priebus Republican National Committee RNC Tom Perez

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