Michael S. Steele
(born October 19
) is the chairman of GOPAC
and a former Lieutenant Governor
, having been elected on the same ticket as Governor Robert L. Ehrlich
in 2002. He is the first African American
to serve in a Maryland state-wide office and the first Republican
lieutenant governor in the state since the position was created in 1970. At the time he was the highest-ranking elected African American Republican
in the United States. On October 25
, Steele announced his candidacy for the United States Senate
seat being vacated by retiring senator Paul Sarbanes
. On November 7
, Steele lost the election to Democratic Congressman Ben Cardin
. He currently is a FOX News contributor and a regular stand-in for Sean Hannity on Hannity and Colmes.
Childhood, education, and early career
Steele was born on October 19
, at Andrews Air Force Base
in Prince George's County
. He spent his childhood in the Petworth
neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C.
which Steele has described as a small, stable and racially integrated community that insulated him from some of the problems elsewhere in the city. He was one of two children raised by mother Maebell Turner and stepfather John Turner. Steele’s sister Monica later married and divorced former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson
Steele attended Archbishop Carroll Roman Catholic High School in Northeast Washington, D.C. While at Carroll, Steele participated in the Glee Club, the National Honor Society and many of the school’s drama productions. During his senior year, 1976-1977, he won the election for student council president.
Steele won a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In his first year there, Steele was elected class president and was a member of the fencing team. He struggled academically, however, and was nearly kicked out of the university at the end of the year. After garnering A's in summer classes at George Washington University, Steele was able to continue at Johns Hopkins, and he earned a bachelor's degree in international relations in 1981.
After college, Steele spent three years as a seminarian in the Order of St. Augustine in preparation for the priesthood. He entered the Augustinian Friars Seminary at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. As a seminarian, he taught freshman world history and senior economics for one year at Malvern Prep School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, but ultimately decided on a career in law and he left the Seminary prior to taking the vows.
Steele then entered the Georgetown University Law Center and in 1991, he received his Juris Doctor degree. He worked as a corporate securities associate attorney at the Washington, D.C. office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. From 1991 to 1997, Steele specialized in financial investments for Wall Street underwriters, working at Cleary’s Tokyo, Japan office focusing on major product liability litigation and at its London office on corporate matters. Steele left the law firm and founded the Steele Group, a business and legal consulting firm.
Steele and his wife Andrea have two sons, Michael and Drew.
Steele’s mother was a widowed laundress who he stated worked for minimum wage rather than accept public assistance. Steele grew up in a Democratic household. However, as a young man he switched to the Republican Party.
After joining the Republican Party, Steele became chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee. In 1995, the Maryland Republican Party selected him as Maryland State Republican Man of the Year. He worked on several political campaigns, was an Alternate Delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego and a Delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that ultimately chose the George W. Bush ticket.
In December 2000, Steele was elected chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, becoming the first African American ever to be elected chairman of any state Republican Party.
Lieutenant Governor of Maryland
In 2002, then-Congressman Robert L. Ehrlich selected Steele as his running mate and nominee for Lieutenant Governor in the campaign against Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was then the Lieutenant Governor (under Governor Parris Glendening). Steele resigned his chairmanship of the Maryland Republican Party to campaign full-time, although he received payments as a Party consultant (see Controversies, below). In endorsing Townsend, the Baltimore Sun praised her running mate, Charles R. Larson, for his experience and expertise, and added: "By contrast, Mr. Ehrlich's running mate, state GOP chairman Michael S. Steele, brings little to the team but the color of his skin.
In the September primary election, Ehrlich and Steele had no serious opposition. In the November 2002 general election, even though Maryland traditionally votes Democratic and had not elected a Republican Governor in almost 40 years, the Townsend campaign was tainted by problems with outgoing governor Glendening's personal life. The Ehrlich-Steele ticket won, 51% to 48%.
Steele’s most prominent efforts for the Ehrlich administration were reforming the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program and chairing Governor Ehrlich’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland. While opposed to the death penalty, Steele endured criticism for not standing firmly against Ehrlich's support of the punishment, despite claims of racial inequities in its administration.
Recently, Steele has attained national prominence due to his stature as a successful elected conservative
Republican African American
and his public speaking. At the 2004 Republican National Convention
, Steele gave the Republican counterpoint to the Democrats' Barack Obama
in a prime time
speech, Steele's first major national exposure. In April 2005, President Bush chose Steele as one of three members of the United States delegation at the investiture of Pope Benedict XVI
at the ceremonial mass in St. Peter’s Square
in Vatican City
. Steele was joined by Florida Governor Jeb Bush
and by Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
. Steele has appeared several times on HBO
's political show Real Time with Bill Maher
, hosted by comedian Bill Maher
. He appeared on Comedy Central
's talk show The Colbert Report
on January 24
2006 campaign for U.S. Senate
When Paul Sarbanes, Maryland’s longest serving United States Senator, announced in March 2005 that he would not be a candidate for re-election in 2006, top state and national Republican officials began pressing Steele to become their party's nominee for the seat. In April 2005 the Baltimore Sun announced the results of a poll it conducted, stating that Steele would run statistically neck and neck against either former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, or Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore County.
On October 25, 2005, Steele formally announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Polling in February 2006 showed the Lieutenant Governor lost significant ground against Cardin, although he remained statistically even with Mfume. Cardin won the primary election on September 12, 2006.
In early 2006, Steele's campaign had some high-level resignations. Campaign manager, Graham Shafer left in January, and communications director and spokesman Leonardo Alcivar left in February.
Steele lost the general election to Cardin on November 7, 2006, getting 44% of the vote to Cardin's 55%. The Washington Post reported that on election day the Steele campaign arranged for buses of low income people from Philadelphia to distribute fliers at polls. Some claim the flyers had incorrect information, including an implication that Michael Steele was a Democrat and that he was endorsed by prominent black leaders who had not, in fact, endorsed him.
After the Senate race
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post
's The Fix
blog reported one day after Steele conceded defeat in his Senate election that he was considering a run to succeed Ken Mehlman
as the next chairman of the Republican National Committee
. Instead Senator Mel Martinez
of Florida was appointed as Mehlman's replacement.
"I have not had any conversations directly with the White House yet on this," Steele said on C-Span
's Washington Journal
about the job.
In February 2007, Steele did become chairman of GOPAC, a political action committee that helps fund state and local Republican campaigns around the country. In April 2007, he joined the international law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP.
On May 17, 2007 Steele served as Co-Master of Ceremonies for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Washington Times newspaper. Former President George H. W. Bush was the keynote speaker. Steele, in his opening comments, said that he had subscribed to the Times throughout its 25 years of publication.
Steele is also considered a possible candidate for Governor of Maryland in the future, and has said he's "intrigued by the idea". He may also run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 if Barbara Mikulski retires.
At the Media Research Center's 2007 DisHonors Awards Gala, Steele concluded a speech with the following: "I get a question all the time, 'Are you going to run again for office?' And I've thought about that, and I've come to realize that there's still some Democrats out there that I haven't ticked off yet. So, yeah, we're gonna do it again. We're gonna do it again, and all I have to say is, they haven't seen anything yet.
In a Human Events article of May 8, 2008, John Gizzi describes Michael Steele as a "quite often mentioned" candidate to serve as John McCain's vice presidential running mate. Steele is quoted as saying such an offer "is beyond my wildest imagining" and that one would "be hard-pressed to say no."
Steele is opposed to abortion including in cases of rape and incest, but regarding Roe v. Wade
itself, Steele has said that the principle of stare decisis
ought to be followed. He supports federal funding for only some stem cell research (e.g., adult stem cell
research or cord blood stem cell research
) if it does not cause the destruction of a human embryo—as is the case in embryonic stem cell research. He supports free trade, tax cuts, school vouchers, welfare reform and tort reform
. He opposes gay adoption and supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage. Steele expressed serious concerns regarding the death penalty during his Senate campaign and has called for further study into its fairness and accuracy.
On August 7, 2006, Steele released answers to a Baltimore Sun candidate survey. In those answers he lays out his position on a variety of issues.
- On the war in Iraq: "It is imperative we improve conditions on the ground so we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible and have the Iraqi people take control of their own destiny. At the same time, we should not publicly state a timetable for implementation. I do not support a 'cut and run strategy.' Any politician out there talking about timetables and timelines is playing into the hands of our enemies who have an enormous capacity to wait. It would be a disaster for us to cut and run, as it would destroy our credibility in the region for at least a generation. At the same time, it is the Iraqi’s themselves that will ultimately have to make democracy work in their country. We should stay there only long enough to give the Iraqi people the tools they need to secure the very democracy they voted for three times. After that, it’s up to them."
- Energy policy: "To provide immediate relief for Marylanders, I have called on President Bush and Congress to enact an immediate moratorium on the federal gas tax - more than 18 cents per gallon - and an immediate moratorium on the 24 cents per gallon diesel tax. Moreover, Congress should approve legislation to suspend the tariff on ethanol imports. But those actions are designed to deal with our immediate crisis. Congress must roll up its sleeves and work to solve the underlying problem - our dependence on foreign sources of energy. To do that, I’ve called on Congress to double President Bush’s budget request for biomass and bio-refinery research, and create market and tax incentives for E85 fuels, hybrid technologies and alternative energy sources. Tax credits for hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles need to be renewed and expanded. Additionally, we must increase fuel efficiency standards for automobiles – not just this year, but over the next several years."
- Affirmative action: "Studies show enormous disparities still exist in education, healthcare, employment and economic opportunities along racial lines in the United States. I believe programs are still necessary to help close these divides. I support giving people opportunities. Programs must be fair to all Marylanders – of every color – and they should focus on economic empowerment."
- The budget deficit: "Congress must also enact pro-growth policies that encourage the economy to expand: like making tax relief permanent and repealing the death tax. As we saw with the most recent deficit figures, a growing economy will in fact reduce the size of the budget deficit. In order to achieve optimal economic growth, Congress must adhere to sane spending guidelines while promoting smart policies devoted to growing businesses and creating jobs."
- Stem cell research: "We have a lot to gain through furthering stem cell research, but medical breakthroughs should be fundamentally about saving, not destroying, human life. Therefore, I support stem cell research that does not destroy the embryo."
- Health care: " We need to increase access to health insurance through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and high deductible policies, so individuals and families can purchase the insurance that's best for them and meets their specific needs. . . . I support allowing small businesses to band together and compete for better insurance options. . . . To help increase our nation’s seniors access to affordable care, I have called to extend the sign up period for the Medicare Prescription Drug plan."
Oreo cookie incident
After a September 26
gubernatorial debate, which had occurred without reported incident, Paul Schurick, Ehrlich's communications manager, claimed that the Townsend campaign handed out Oreo
cookies to the audience. Five days after the debate, Steele said that one or more Oreo cookies had rolled to his feet during the debate suggesting a racist
statement against him. "Maybe it was just someone having their snack, but it was there," Steele said. "If it happened, shame on them if they are that immature and that threatened by me."
At the time of the debate, Schurick had not mentioned any such incident, but in November 2005 he claimed "It was raining Oreos... They were thick in the air like locusts. I was there. It was very real. It wasn't subtle." In a November 2005 Hannity and Colmes
appearance, Steele agreed with Hannity that cookies were thrown at him. Neil Duke
of the Baltimore NAACP
, who moderated the debate, praised the "passionate audience" and noted their "derisive behavior" but did not see such behavior. "Were there some goofballs sitting in [the] right-hand corner section tossing cookies amongst themselves and acting like sophomores, as the legend has it?" Duke said. "I have no reason to doubt those sources; I just didn't see it." The operations manager of the building where the debate was held, interviewed three years after the event by the Baltimore Sun
, disputed Steele's claim and said "I was in on the cleanup, and we found no cookies or anything else abnormal. There were no Oreo cookies thrown." Some eyewitnesses including AP reporter Tom Stuckey who was at the event have said cookies were handed out. Other eyewitnesses could not corroborate Steele and Schurick's claim.
Steele admitted during the election in 2002 that sometime during his early career he had financial difficulties. The Maryland Republican Party began paying Steele $5,000 a month in consulting fees shortly after his selection as gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr's running mate. Democrats said the payments raised ethical questions, specifically that it appeared the Republicans had "hired themselves a candidate". The Republican Party defended the payments by saying that Steele was hired to continue performing his duties as party chairman since his replacement was not prepared to take over yet. Steele admitted that his consulting business, formed in 1999, had been struggling, partly because many clients did not pay their bills.
In 2004, Steele accepted over $13,000 in campaign contributions from the board members of non-profit organizations shortly after Steele's office had directed $250,000 in unrestricted grants to those same groups. According to a 2006 Baltimore Sun
investigation, ethics experts and campaign finance watchdogs viewed the financial transactions as questionable and warranting further scrutiny.
He has also accepted contributions from Tony Rudy, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R) former top aide, who was convicted of accepting illegal contributions from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In July of 2005, Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich
, a Republican
, came under criticism for hosting a $1,000-a-head golf outing at a golf club, Elkridge Hunt Club, that has no minority members. Doug Duncan
, Ehrlich's potential Democratic opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial elections
, accused Ehrlich of "trying to divide us" and called for him to publicly apologize "for holding this event at a club that discriminates."
Lt. Governor Steele responded to the outcry by saying, "I don't know that much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't play golf." Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Maryland House of Delegates, called Steele's dismissal of the controversy "a slap in the face of those of us who are African Americans. After two weeks, the controversy still persisted, leading Steele to say that his "initial reaction to this was a little more flippant than it should have been.
Stem cell comparison
When discussing his position on embryonic stem cells
leaders on February 9
, Steele compared the science with experiments performed on Jews during the Holocaust
and with slavery
. He said, "You of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings...I know that as well in my community, out of our experience with slavery, and so I'm very cautious when people say this is the best new thing, this is going to save lives."
Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, criticized Steele for his remarks, rejecting the comparison "between ethical and lifesaving medical research, and the horrors committed by the Nazis in their evil drive to create a master race." Steele was also criticized by his opponent in the 2006 U.S. Senate election, Congressman Ben Cardin, who is Jewish and a supporter of embryonic stem-cell research.
Steele later described his remarks as ill-advised, saying that he "made an unfortunate, irresponsible inference."
- Mosk, Matthew, Washington Post, With Sarbanes Retiring, Senate Interest Simmers, March 28, 2005 .
- Green, Andrew A., The Baltimore Sun, Steele attracts strong support in Senate race, April 18, 2005 .
- The Baltimore Sun, Michael Steele Joins Presidential Delegation In Rome, April 23, 2005 .
- State of Maryland Office of Minority Affairs, MBE Commission, Feb. 27, 2004
- Ebrown, Russell Simmons and Michael Steele, April 24, 2005 .
- Maryland Republican Party, State Party Biography of Lt. Governor Michael S. Steele
.* The Honorable Michael Steele .
- Stratton, LaShell, The Common Denominator, Mr. Steele goes to Annapolis: A D.C. kid really can grow up to be lieutenant governor, April 7, 2003 .
- Abruzzese, Sarah, Capital News Service, Steele joins U.S. papal delegation, April 23, 2005.
- Nitkin, David, The Baltimore Sun, Steele calls on club to admit blacks, July 17, 2005
- Mosk, Matthew Washington Post Steele's Web Site Parades Democrats: Hoyer Wants Photo Removed; Mfume Also Pictured, July 11, 2006; B05