Politico: RNC candidates make social pledges

This article originally appeared online at Politico on December 22, 2010.

By: Andy Barr

Some of the top tier candidates seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee have made their pitches to the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List in hopes of convincing social conservatives of their beliefs.

Wisconsin Republican Chairman Reince Priebus, Michigan National Committeeman Saul Anuzis and former RNC political director Gentry Collins each sat for interviews via skype with SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser and National Organization for Marriage Chairwoman Maggie Gallagher.

The three candidates are contending in a wide-open race to lead the RNC. Former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner, Republican operative Maria Cino and the current chairman, Michael Steele, are all also running for the job.

The RNC race has focused almost exclusively on fundraising, as each candidate has contended Steele has failed to court major donors.

But in an effort to ensure that the next chairman is committed to social issues, the presidents of the two groups pressed the candidates on abortion and marriage in the interviews, posted online Wednesday.

The interviews were part of an effort from SBA List, is also co-hosting a Jan. 3 RNC debate, to ensure that the next Republican national chairman is “committed to articulating and putting resources behind the pro-life message,” Dannenfelser told POLITICO.

“In the midterm election results, the strength of the pro-life grassroots movement was clear with 80 out of the 87 new Republican House members being pro-life,” Dannenfelser said. “There is a growing sense among Americans, both in public opinion and at the ballot box, that they want leaders who will defend unborn children and end taxpayer funding of abortion, especially when the president is moving in the opposite direction.”

All three of the candidates who were interviewed vowed to support anti-abortion causes as well as socially conservative candidates, as chairman of the RNC.

“I believe, absolutely, that life begins at the moments of conception,” Priebus declared during his conversation with the two social conservative leaders. “It’s a core principal of mine.”

“If I was to be elected chairman of the RNC that would be something that I would have an even bigger obligation to uphold the position I have on abortion. And I think it would be a huge disappointment to God if I didn’t,” Priebus pledged, frequently evoking his faith in his answers.

Priebus went, perhaps, the farthest in stating his responsibility as chairman to oppose abortion rights.

Collins used the question to pivot to his criticism of Steele, arguing that a stronger RNC will be better able to support anti-abortion candidates. And Anuzis pointed to his past support of pro-life groups during his time as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Dannenfelser also asked each of the candidates if he had contributed to a pro-choice organization. All three said they had not.

“Never, and I never would,” Collins responded.

Each of the three candidates also affirmed their belief in protecting traditional marriage.

Collins took an especially strong stance against gay marriage, saying that it “devalues the relationship that is shared by my wife and I and a number of committed married couples.”

In his response, Anuzis said the marriage issue was fundamental to the function of American society.

“Marriage is an institution that has been around for 3,000 years. It’s part of our faith. It’s part of our culture,” he said. “It’s important to have a mother and a father…People care that you’re a family person.”

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