31 Jan 2009

US Republicans elect first black chairman

1:18 pm on 31 January 2009

The Republican Party in the United States has chosen its first African-American chairman, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

He defeated four opponents over six rounds of voting on Friday.

The BBC reports Mr Steele, 50, was considered a outsider, because he was not already a member of the Republican National Committee.

"It's just one more bold step that the party of Lincoln has taken since its founding," he said at a news conference, referring to the president who freed black slaves in 1863.

He is regarded within the party as a skilled speaker who can help bring the Republican message to black Americans, Hispanics, suburbanites and other groups.

The Democratic Party elected its first black chairman, Ron Brown, in 1989.

The next congressional elections are in 2010.