Priebus speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference
|Chairman of the
Republican National Committee
January 20, 2011
|Preceded by||Michael Steele|
|Chairman of the
Republican Party of Wisconsin
May 2007 – 2011
|Preceded by||Richard W. Graber|
|Succeeded by||Brad Courtney|
|Born||Reinhold Richard Priebus
March 18, 1972
Dover, New Jersey, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Sally Priebus (m. 1999)|
|Residence||Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|Religion||Christianity (Eastern Orthodox)|
Reinhold Richard "Reince" Priebus (/ / RYNS PREE-bəs; born March 18, 1972) is an American attorney and politician who is currently the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). He had previously served as RNC general counsel, and is the former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, where he is credited with helping to bring nationally known figures such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker into power on the state level and into prominence on the national stage.
Priebus was born in Dover, New Jersey, and lived in Netcong, New Jersey, until his family moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, when he was seven years old. His father is a former union electrician and his mother a real estate agent. Some sources, including his biography on the Republican Party website, identify his parents' names as "Richard and Dimitra", with "Roula" as a nickname for his mother. Priebus is of German and Greek descent.
At 16, he volunteered for several political campaigns in high school. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he majored in English and political science, and joined the Delta Chi fraternity. Priebus graduated cum laude in 1994 and prior to that had been elected to serve as student body president and was president of the College Republicans.
After graduation from Whitewater, Priebus served as a clerk for the Wisconsin State Assembly Education Committee. He then enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Florida. While studying for his law degree, he worked as a clerk for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and also interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in California.
In 1998, he graduated with a J.D. degree cum laude from the University of Miami after serving as president of the Law School Student Body. He moved back to Wisconsin and became a member of the State Bar. Subsequently, he joined Wisconsin law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, where he became a partner in 2006, practicing in the firm's litigation and corporate practice groups. While working at Michael Best & Friedrich, he was named as one of Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine's "Rising Stars" in 2008 and was included in the Milwaukee Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list, also in 2008.
Priebus married his wife, Sally, in 1999. The couple, who first met in high school and went to the prom together, would go on to have two children. They lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, before moving to be near the Republican National Committee (RNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., following Priebus' election as Chairman of the RNC.
He ran for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2004 but lost to the Democratic incumbent, Robert Wirch. In 2007, following a successful campaign, he was elected chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. He was the youngest person to have held that role. Two years later, in 2009, he also became the general counsel for the Republican National Committee.
As chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, Priebus led the party to success in the November 2010 elections in Wisconsin, which was previously a state held by the Democratic Party. The party won control of the State Senate and Assembly, and a Republican candidate was elected Governor. In particular, his work to bring Wisconsin's Tea Party movement together with the mainstream Republican party organization, and avoid conflict between the two, was credited by commentators as contributing to the party's success. Following the success of the 2010 elections, Priebus, together with Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, became known as part of a rising Republican movement in Wisconsin that was influential on the national level and focused on conservative ideologies, particularly fiscal conservatism.
On December 5, 2010, Priebus stepped down as general counsel for the Republican National Committee (RNC). The next day he sent a letter to all 168 voting members of the RNC announcing his candidacy for chairman. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker supported Priebus' bid from the beginning, attributing the party's victories in Wisconsin to "Priebus' leadership and involvement in the grassroots Tea Party movement that swept the state and the nation". Priebus told delegates in his letter: "I will keep expenses low. I will put in strong and serious controls. We will raise the necessary funds to make sure we are successful. We will work to regain the confidence of our donor base and I will personally call our major donors to ask them to rejoin our efforts at the RNC."
On January 14, 2011, after seven rounds of voting, Priebus was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee.
|Candidate||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6||Round 7|
At the start of his first term as chairman of the RNC in January 2011, Priebus had inherited a $23 million debt from his predecessor Michael Steele, as well as severely strained relationships with "major donors". Priebus stated that his goals for his leadership were to reduce the debt, rebuild the organization's finances and improve relationships with major donors and party leaders, as well as aiding Republican efforts in the 2012 presidential elections. In particular, he aimed to develop a strong voter mobilization program, including improved voter registration and absentee ballot programs to identify unregistered voters and those who had not returned their ballots, using funds raised through his initial outreach to major donors.
By the end of 2011, Priebus had raised more than $88 million and cut the RNC's debt to $11.8 million. Former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie described his work in glowing terms: "He's completely restored faith at the RNC amongst donors and activists, he's been on message and he has done a great job raising money, which is the principal role of the RNC chairman." According to Priebus, at the end of his first year in the role, there were 1,000 donors of $30,000 or more annually. Also, after his first year, Priebus received praise from Republican Congress members for the increased communication from him and his team, compared with the previous chair.
During the 2012 State of the Union Address and presidential primary of 2012, Priebus and his RNC team were credited with keeping the focus on President Barack Obama. Despite such focus, Obama won re-election by soundly defeating his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, by an electoral college voting margin of 332 to 206 (while the popular vote margin was four percent). Priebus was actively engaged in pointing out what he considered errors and shortcomings in the work of Obama and Democratic leaders. In 2012 Priebus appeared on such political talk shows as Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Also in 2012, he continued to focus on rebuilding the RNC's finances by reaching out to donors, and at the end of the year the organization reported no debt.
After the Republican losses in 2012, Priebus ordered broad reviews of RNC operations. Of particular concern was voter outreach, including the party's failed messaging to young people, women, and Hispanics. 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost each of these groups to Obama. The analysis of the election cycle would include gathering feedback from numerous volunteers and staffers who were involved at various levels. He began development of a political plan including a long-term strategy to reach demographic groups that had voted mainly Democratic in the November 2012 elections. The plan was labeled "The Growth and Opportunity Project".
On January 25, 2013, the election for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee took place in Charlotte, North Carolina during the committee's winter meeting. Priebus was elected to serve another term. Priebus was being challenged for the nomination by Maine's National Committeeman Mark Willis.
For Priebus' second term he set the goal of "transforming the party – to be a force from coast to coast." In his re-election speech he stated that the party would no longer approach electoral politics from a "red and blue state" perspective.
On March 18, 2013, Priebus presented the completed Growth and Opportunity Project report developed from a listening tour and four-month analysis carried out by Priebus and Republican strategists including Henry Barbour, Sally Bradshaw, Ari Fleischer, Zori Fonalledas and Glenn McCall. The report outlined a comprehensive plan for the party to overhaul its operations. Specific plans outlined in the report included: improving the Republican Party's digital and research capabilities; a $10 million outreach effort to minority communities; supporting immigration reform; and reducing the length of the presidential primary season.
In September 2013, Priebus was successful in persuading both CNN and NBC to cancel planned biopics of Hillary Clinton, which had been criticized as "free campaigning on Clinton's behalf", according to columnist Jennifer Rubin. Priebus stated that the networks would not be allowed to moderate a Republican primary debate if the films went ahead.
The following year, Politico reported that Priebus had made progress with efforts to make the RNC a year-round operation, particularly through investment into digital technology and field staff. In a March 2014 CNN op-ed, Priebus said that the RNC had established a data management and predictive analytics initiative called Para Bellum Labs, with an office in Silicon Valley. Continuing Priebus' aim to create an initiative to rival the voter mobilization efforts of the 2012 Obama campaign, in May 2014, the RNC launched the Victory 365 program. The program focuses on communicating with and encouraging the efforts of volunteers across the U.S. to reach others in their communities. Priebus also worked to reduce the length of the presidential primary calendar, generating support for a RNC rules change to make the primary calendar shorter by up to three months and bringing the national convention forward to late June at the earliest. The rules change was passed almost unanimously in January 2014.
Also following the Growth and Opportunity Project report (also called "the autopsy" and "the post-mortem"), Priebus led efforts to reach out to black, Latino and Asian American voters. In July 2014, he spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, where he said that to support these efforts the Republican Party was spending approximately $8.5 million per month and had established offices in 15 states.
In a speech on October 2, 2014, Priebus laid out the RNC's "Principles for American Renewal", covering 11 goals of the Republican party in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. The principles include three economy-related proposals for the Senate to move forward: approval of construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline; federal healthcare law reform; and a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution. Other goals included in the principles include job creation, care of veterans, immigration and government spending. Following the speech, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement criticizing Priebus, arguing that Republicans are "out of step with the American public".
On January 16, 2015, the election for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee took place in San Diego, California. Priebus was reelected to a third term on a near-unanimous vote, making him the first chairman to lead the RNC for three consecutive terms with a Democratic president in the White House. Priebus was credited for his fundraising skills, healing relations with major Republican donors, and the ability to maintain "generally warm acceptance" by conservatives and moderates alike, among other accomplishments.
On October 30, 2015, after the third Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colorado, in which there were clashes between the Republican candidates and the debate moderators, the RNC announced that NBC News would no longer host the February 26, 2016, debate in Houston. Priebus showed concerns that an NBC-hosted debate could result in a "repeat" of the CNBC debate, as both are divisions of NBCUniversal, although NBC News is editorially separate from CNBC. Priebus explained that CNBC had conducted the October 28 debate in "bad faith", arguing that "while debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates' visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC's moderators engaged in a series of 'gotcha' questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates' policies and ideas."
On April 22, 2016, Priebus appealed for party unity, regardless of would become the Republican Party's nominee. After Trump was named the presumptive nominee, Priebus said in mid-May that a third-party candidate would be tantamount to a suicide mission.
On October 4, 2016, Priebus called Trump a role model. "You know, I think everyone's a role model in different ways. When you look at someone who has built businesses, lost businesses, came back, lived the American dream, a person who sets goals, he's a winner."
Priebus continued supporting the Republican nominee despite releasing statements critical of Trump. On August 1, 2016, after Trump criticized the Gold Star family of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq, Priebus stated, "I think this family should be off limits, and we love them and I can't imagine being the father of a little girl and boy going through the unbelievable grief of them not coming home one day in battle.  On October 7, 2016, following the Donald Trump Access Hollywood controversy, Priebus released a statement saying: "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."
During the summer of 2016, several publications reported that Priebus was considering a run for a fourth consecutive term as RNC Chairman. If re-elected, he would extend his run as the longest serving RNC Chairman in history.
Mr. Priebus, a plain-spoken Greek Orthodox lawyer from Wisconsin, will join
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|Party political offices|
Richard W. Graber
|Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin
|Chairman of the Republican National Committee