Michael Steele has dropped his bid to head the Maryland Republican Party and is exploring a run for Congress in 2000.
The Prince George's County lawyer announced yesterday that for the sake of unity, he will not challenge Richard D. Bennett for the state party chairmanship when party regulars convene Dec. 12 in Annapolis.
Steele received the endorsement of Ellen R. Sauerbrey in his unsuccessful campaign for comptroller in the Republican primary. But Bennett, Sauerbrey's running mate, earned her blessing for chairman of the state GOP.
"A good number of party leaders want Mr. Bennett," Steele said. "I'm going to put the party's interests ahead of my own and accept the first vice chairmanship and do what Mr. Bennett needs to have done."
Steele's quiet exploration of a possible congressional race was made public yesterday afternoon by an unusual campaign spokesman: former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Standing outside a Rockville courthouse after pleading no contest to assault charges, Tyson told reporters he was joining an effort to help elect Steele.
"Michael is an enthusiastic brother-in-law," Steele said with a laugh. "Did he jump the gun? Yeah, a little bit."
Tyson promised to deliver Charles Barkley as a campaigner, and Steele confirmed talk of bringing the basketball star to Maryland for an appearance.
Steele, who lives in Largo in Maryland's 4th Congressional District, would be challenging Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Democrat who has held the seat since 1993.
"It's a tough district. Al has a good base of support," Steele said. "But everyone has chinks in their armor."
Another possibility, he said, would be moving to the 5th Congressional District and challenging veteran Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.
Pub Date: 12/02/98