Once an obscure 38-year-old GOP official from Wisconsin with a strange-sounding name — Reince Priebus — he was elected Chairman the Republican National Committee, on January 14, 2011, after seven rounds of voting.
Here is a sample of Reince Priebus, in his own words.
On the inscription in his office that reads, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”: “I think that it’s really important to be reminded that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish big things, and I think that’s a good message for everybody.”
On his unusual name: “I would always tell everyone, that’s what happens when you have a German and a Greek for your parents. It’s a clash of cultures, you could say.”
On being Greek: “I am proud to be Greek, it is a blessing from God to be Greek.”
In one sentence, what do most liberals most often misunderstand or get wrong about conservatism? “I don’t actually know if they believe it or if it’s just a political play, but they love playing this idea that we’re just for people who have money, which I just totally reject. I don’t come from a family like that. My dad’s an electrician; my mom was born in Sudan. Half my family lived in Greece. I think what we believe is that everybody should have an opportunity to make good money, and we want people to do well.”
On how his Greek mother, whose family hailed from Mytilene, was born in Sudan, where she met his father: “Back in the ’60s, northern Africa — as I understood it and as it was explained to me — was sort of the new frontier of southern Europe. So there were a lot of Italians and Greeks and Spanish that lived in northern Africa in the ’60s. My mother was 19 or 20 when she met my dad, and she had lived in Khartoum her entire life. She worked at the American Embassy in Sudan. My dad was in the Army in Ethiopia because the United States had an Army base in, I think it was Eritrea. And then he met my mom when she was in Khartoum.”
Reince married his high school girlfriend Sally who he met at an Illinois church when he was 18 and she was 16. They ended up going to prom together. They broke up for a time before getting back together and finally marrying in 1999.
Where does a future RNC chairman take his future wide on their first date? “I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and dated Sally, my now wife, in high school. Actually, our first date was a Lincoln Day Dinner” so they could hear the keynote speeches by Reps. Henry Hyde of Illinois and James Sensenbrenner, Jr. of Wisconsin. “I know. Nerd alert. But we went to a movie after that.”
His earliest political memory? Third grade at Pleasant Prairie Elementary School, when he was the self-appointed manager of Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid.
How does Priebus’ high school government and politics teacher describe him? “He was just a young man who I always thought was just kind of destined to achieve the goals he had set for himself.”
His first elected position? Student body president of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he graduated cum laude in 1994.
His first national convention? He was a 20-year-old, non-voting delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1992.
His first bid for public office? An unsuccessful run for a seat in the Wisconsin Senate.
Your dad was in a union? “Yeah… He was in the SEIU [Service Employees International Union] when he retired with the Racine school district, but then he was an IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] electrician for a long, long time.”
You interned at the NAACP? “For the [NAACP] Legal Defense Fund out in California,… like Condi Rice did — you know, back then there was nothing strange at all about a Republican working with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund..”
In college, he worked as a legislative assistant to two state representatives and one state senator. During law school, Mr. Priebus clerked for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Los Angeles, California.
Made partner at a prominent law Milwaukee firm in 2008, he was named a “Rising Star” by Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine — an honor given to selected attorneys younger than 40. Priebus was elected Wisconsin state GOP party chair in 2007, the youngest person ever elected to that position. In 2010 he oversaw a banner election year for Republicans in Wisconsin and is a close friend and political adviser to Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson, In 2009, he became general counsel of the RNC.
In three bullet points, why should people think you are doing a good job as party chairman? “I think I’ve been mission-driven, we’ve raised record amounts of money, and I’ve watched my mouth and stayed on message.”
Stayed on message? “I have deposed, defended and taken hundreds of depositions. So when I first came into this job, one of the things that people, what the media said was, ‘Does this guy know what he’s doing?’ And there is a skill as a trial lawyer, which I was, that people underestimate, which is sort of just this idea that you can see things on paper just before they leave your tongue. It’s just sort of a processing thing. So that’s why I like, I love the little rapid stuff. Favorite ice cream. Favorite movie.”
Okay. Favorite movie? “I tend to like more dumb-like stuff, like ‘Tommy Boy,’ you know, ‘Meet the Parents,’ um, ‘What About Bob?’ You know, that kind of stuff. I enjoy that kind of stuff a lot more than something real serious.”
Favorite music? “If you looked at my iPad, you would see Toby Keith, Metallica, AC/DC, you know, Frank Sinatra, Coldplay. I mean, you’d probably get it all.”
His favorite team? “Without question, I’m a Green Bay Packer fanatic. From every square inch of my body, I’m a Packer fan, without any hesitation or question.”
His favorite beer? Wisconsin’s own Miller High Life.
His favorite book? the “Reagan Diaries.”
Other than Ronald Reagan, who is his political hero? “Abraham Lincoln.”
What’s it like living in Washington, compared to Wisconsin? “I think it’s a great place. But I think it’s better for us living in Wisconsin. It’s just something we’re more used to. … I let the dog out in Kenosha, I let the dog out, and the dog comes back 40 minutes later. That’s how it operates. Over here I got a dog walker, which is expensive. It’s just sort of a weird way to operate.”