Early life and education
Priebus was born in Dover, New Jersey, and grew up in Netcong, New Jersey, until his family moved to Wisconsin when he was seven. His father is a former union electrician and his mother a real estate agent. Some sources identify his parents as Roula and Dimitra, while others, including his GOP bio, specify "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.
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 Sunday 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|
- Candidate won majority of votes in the round
- Candidate secured a plurality of votes in the round
- Candidate withdrew
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, President 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 President 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 President 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".
2013 election of chairman
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 GOP'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 Growth and Opportunity Project report, 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 GOP 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".
2015 election of chairman
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 Democrat in the White House. Priebus had been praised for his fundraising skills and healing relations with major GOP donors, his ability to maintain "generally warm acceptance" by conservatives and moderates alike, among other accomplishments.
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Mr. Priebus, a plain-spoken Greek Orthodox lawyer from Wisconsin, will join
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|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Reince Priebus.|
- Chairman at GOP.com
- Profile at Michael Best law firm
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Reince Priebus collected news and commentary at The Washington Post
- Reince Priebus collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- File at PolitiFact Wisconsin
- Reince Priebus for RNC Chair campaign site
- RNC fundraising, NewsMax
|Party political offices|
|Chairperson of the Republican National Committee