GOP Chair Candidates Pledge at Debate to Work With Pro-Life Groups

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 3, 2011   |   3:29PM   |   Washington, DC

The candidates for the chairmanship of the Republican Party pledged at a debate today to work with pro-life groups in advance of the 2012 elections.

They participated in a debate today sponsored in part by the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List and pro-life advocates have been closely watching whether current chairman Michael Steele will run the GOP for another election cycle or whether one of four other candidates will replace him.

During the debate, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser asked the candidates whether they would pledge to build bridges with pro-life groups in an effort to turn out the vote to defeat President Barack Obama.

“I think that there has to be a working relationship with all of our coalitions, and particularly those that support the sanctity of life,” former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis said in terms of identifying candidates and supporting them. “When we run away from those issues, we run away from opportunities…I don’t think we should hide where we stand on those issues.”

He added that opposing abortion is “an important part of our platform” that a majority of voters support across the country.

Candidate Maira Cino said the GOP would have a close relationship with pro-life groups like SBA if she leads the party.

“Work hard to build and invest in strong national and state coalitions. Working with various pro-life coalitions to make sure we register our voters, we identify them and we get them out to vote,” she said.

Current Republican party chairman Michael Steele explained that he has worked closely with pro-life groups as chairman.

“We paid particular attention to” building coalitions with pro-life groups, Steele said, and he talked about adding a coalitions department at the RNC to reach out to pro-life groups and voters.

“I met several times publicly and privately” with pro-life groups on abortion and health care issues, he said. Steele added that relationships also have to be built with pro-life groups at the state level.

Candidate Reince Priebus said he worked with Wisconsin Right to Life as the chairman of the GOP in his state.

“It is paramount to our platform as Republicans, we have a responsibility to promote the Right to Life issue and to work with pro-life groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and Right to Life,” he said. “We should be proud of being pro-life.”

“If you’re pro-abortion…well then guess what, you might not be a Republican,” he added.

Ann Wagner, a former RNC co-chair from Missouri, added that it is “unfortunate” if anyone would discourage candidates from “holding their pro-life views out front.”

“We always encouraged our candidates to talk about the life issue, and I think it’s not anything that the party should hold back from in any shape or form,” she said.

She said is important that pro-life groups “have a seat at the table” to talk with the party about candidates, fundraising and get out the vote efforts.

All of the candidates said they would support de-funding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business.

Steele, the current chairman who has come under criticism for poor fundrasing and financials at the RNC, faces four opponents including former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, and former RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner. All three have interviewed with the Susan B. Anthony List and declared themselves fully pro-life and ready to uphold the pro-life platform of the Republican Party.

Steele also faces 2008 Republican convention organizer Maria Cino, who has come under fire for her past involvement in and donations to the pro-abortion Republican group WISH List, which she recently attempted to explain away in a Friday SBA List interview, where she also declared herself to be a strongly pro-life Catholic. 

Looking ahead to the January 14 vote, a Politico report indicates Steele, who also told SBA he is pro-life, is opposed by 88 of 168 RNC members who will be voting for a new chairman. With the winning candidate needing 85 votes to win, the report makes it appear Steele would lack a majority even if he can advance to later ballots and eventually face one of his opponents.

The head of one pro-life group, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, has already suggested Steele should be replaced — citing poor fundraising and preparation for defeating Obama and Steele’s questionable remarks on abortion that go against his own stated pro-life positions.

The chairmanship of the GOP is important because the party apparatus will lay the groundwork for the massive get out the vote campaign necessary to defeat pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

“It is critical that the next RNC chairman not only be pro-life, but be prepared to use his or her position to advance pro-life values,” SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told Tuesday morning