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Dawson officially enters RNC race

From NBC's Mark Murray
Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, today officially announced his bid to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"I am running to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee because I'm ready to help lead our party's turnaround," he said in a statement. "We need to turnaround our fortunes in many regions of the country. We need to turnaround our grassroots organization, our fundraising, our use of technology and new media, and our candidate recruitment. We must move forward with the confidence that our message of optimism, hope, and freedom still resonates in the hearts of our fellow Americans."

But in a sign that this will be a contentious contest for RNC chair, opponents to Dawson's candidacy passed along to First Read a South Carolina newspaper article noting that Dawson stepped down from a whites-only country club back in September. "He resigned ... as The State pursued an article on his membership in the club and his role in an internal push to admit African-Americans as members."

More from the article: "Dawson wrote a letter to club leaders Aug. 20, urging them to allow people of color. 'It is with only the best interests of our club's proud tradition at heart that I inform you of my intent to work to change the club practice that would exclude membership for anyone based on any specific ethnicity,' he wrote in the letter obtained by The State."

Other announced and potential contenders for RNC chairman include Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis, current RNC chair Mike Duncan, former Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman, and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

*** UPDATE *** Dawson spokesman Rob Godfrey responds to the oppo on his boss. "We're not going to get bogged down in the inside-the-Beltway game of 'gotcha' politics." Instead, Godfrey says that Dawson is focused on the big issues that RNC members care about: rejuvenating the GOP's grassroots, raising money, and competing in every county across the country. Godfrey also notes that during Dawson's tenure as South Carolina GOP chair, someone became the state's first African-American RNC member, and another person this month became the first black Republican elected to the South Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction.