Washington Republican National Chairman Jim Gilmore resigned Friday, clearing the way for President Bush to install a new party head in advance of midterm 2002 elections, with control of Congress and three dozen statehouses at stake.
Former Montana governor and close Bush ally Marc Racicot is the leading candidate to replace Gilmore if he wants the job, senior Republicans said Friday. Racicot was once in line to be Bush's attorney general but took himself out of the running.
The White House asked Republican leaders throughout the country for advice on a successor by Monday. Along with Racicot, who came to Bush's aid during last year's Florida recount, names of several other prospects were circulated, including Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., and Ann Wagner of Missouri, RNC co-chairwoman.
Gilmore resigned, effective in January, saying he wasn't willing to commit to the extensive travel and time away from family. He leaves after less than a year in office, a period marked by disappointing elections and internal party tensions.
Several high-ranking GOP officials familiar with Bush's thinking, including some at the White House, said Gilmore had a hard time accepting direction from the White House and sometimes clashed with RNC deputy director Jack Oliver, installed at the RNC to run day-to-day operations and look out for the president's political interests.
But Gilmore and the White House reportedly had been discussing the governor remaining at least another year. After he tendered his resignation, Gilmore was offered an administration post but declined, White House officials said.