|Chairperson of the South Carolina Republican Party|
May 2002 – May 2009
|Preceded by||Henry McMaster|
|Succeeded by||Karen Floyd|
February 29, 1956 |
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of South Carolina, Columbia|
Katon Edwards Dawson (born February 29, 1956) is an American politician from the state of South Carolina, former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and was a 2009 candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Dawson was born in Columbia, South Carolina in then-heavily Democratic South Carolina, his parents helped organize the state's first GOP precincts. Dawson claimed his political interest came from attending a Barry Goldwater speech in 1964, and first volunteered for Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign. He also considers the desegregation of his high-school in the 1960s as a major event that inspired him to enter politics, as Dawson was fiercely anti-desegregation. Dawson commented in an interview,
|“||I, in the 1960s was a product of school segregation, where we took our schools and completely disbanded them, and made racial equality. Fifty-Fifty. And the kids had no choices. They closed Booker T. Washington, Blease, down here. A pretty good school. Closed it and sent the students to A. C. Flora, across town. And they did it over the summer because the laws had been changed by the politicians. ...I will tell you it was a pretty harsh environment. Government reached into my life and grabbed me and shook me at the age of fifteen. I remember how blatant it was that government just thought that they knew better, that government just thought they knew better what to do in my school. ...But from that day on I’ve always been politically active, and wanted my voice heard.||”|
Dawson graduated from the University of South Carolina.
In August 2007 Dawson drew national attention for his decision to move the 2008 South Carolina Republican presidential primary from Feb. 2 to January 29, preserving the state's "first in the South" primary. In every election since 1980, the winner of the South Carolina primary has won the Republican presidential nomination, except in 2012 when Newt Gingrich won the primary and did not secure the nomination.
During Dawson's chairmanship, the South Carolina GOP has made progress with outreach to African-Americans and in promoting minorities to leadership positions, electing its first African-American member of the Republican National Committee from the South, and in 2008 the first black Republican State Representative since Reconstruction was elected.
In August 2008, Dawson personally argued in an open letter to the Forest Lake Country Club, a whites-only country club of which he was a member, to include minority members (and later resigned his 12-year membership) stating "we have a responsibility to expeditiously make right this longstanding wrong." According to Dawson, he first learned of the restriction on the 80-year-old deed in 2008, and while there are no black members, African-Americans are frequent guests at the club and on the golf course. Though Dawson claims to have been only a "12-year-member" of Forest Lake Country Club, his parents were members for decades before that and he and his siblings had grown up at the club, using the facilities since their childhoods in the late '50s and 1960s. This make his claim to have been unaware of racial segregation at the club questionable. Dawson became the first state Republican chair to endorse the "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less." campaign launched by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's organization American Solutions.
Dawson expressed his interest in chairing the Republican National Committee in October 2007 when reports confirmed Senator Mel Martinez would be stepping down, but did not actively campaign until he announced his official bid on November 24, 2008 for the 2009 RNC Chairmanship Election. Dawson was one of two candidates to earn votes on each of the six votes taken; he lost the final ballot to winner Michael Steele, 91-77.
RNC Chairman Vote
|Candidate||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6|
- Candidate won that Round of voting
- Candidate withdrew
- Candidate won RNC Chairmanship
Dawson lives with his wife Candy in Columbia, S.C. They have two children, Anna and Katon Jr.
- Adcox, Seanna, GOP chairman relishes putting state in limelight, AP, August 12, 2007.
- Goldsmith, Brian S.C. GOP Chair Says Electability is Key, CBS News, January 18, 2008.
- Preston, Mark South Carolina GOP moves up primary, adds to 2008 scramble, CNN.com, August 9, 2007.
- Smith, Gina. Black Republicans forging new paths in S. Carolina, The State, October 13, 2008.
- McPike, Erin. Alexander Urges Republicans To Keep After Black Votes, Congress Daily, November 21, 2008.
- Gizzi, John. Party Time, Human Events, June 30, 2008.
- Wilson, Reid. They've Got Game, Campaigns and Elections' Politics Magazine, August 31, 2008.
- LeBlanc, Clif. S.C. GOP chairman quits whites-only country club, The State, September 21, 2008.
- Dawson, Katon. Open letter from Katon Dawson to Forest Lake Country Club, The State, August 20, 2008.
- Geraghty, Jim. African-Americans Played at the 'Whites Only' Columbia Country Club, National Review Online, December 16, 2008.
- Slade, David. GOP head backs oil drilling, Charleston Post and Courier, July 10, 2008.
- McPike, Erin. SC's Dawson Eyes RNC Post, The Hotline, October 3, 2007.
- Cillizza, Chris. The Race Within the Republican Race, The Fix, washingtonpost.com, January 14, 2008.
- Mark Murray. Dawson officially enters RNC race, MSNBC, November 24, 2008
- Burns, Alexander. Steele: 'How do you like me now?', Politico, January 30, 2009
- CQ Politics (January 30, 2009). "Republican Choose Michael Steele as Party Chairman".
- PollPundit.com (January 30, 2009). "RNC Chairman Vote: Live Coverage".
- Message from SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson—official South Carolina Republican Party website
- Raleigh-Durham News & Observer Katon Dawson tag index
- USA Today Katon Dawson tag index
- The Next Right Katon Dawson tag index
|Party political offices|
|Chairperson of the South Carolina Republican Party