ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Maria Cino, a veteran of the Bush administration who recently spent time out of government lobbying for the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, officially kicked off her bid for chair of the Republican National Committee on Saturday.
Cino posted a letter online telling members of the committee that she has the "experience and qualifications needed to accomplish the very difficult tasks that lie ahead."
"Over these past few weeks, I have talked with almost every member of the Republican National Committee and deeply appreciate your observations, thoughts, and ideas," Cino wrote in the message. "We can win the White House, elect a new Senate Majority and grow our House Majority if we work hard together."
With the announcement, Cino begins her official campaign and ends a period of testing the waters that lasted for more than a month as she contacted members of the RNC from around the country trying drum up support for her bid.
She won the high-profile backing of several important GOP figures, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former counselor to President George W. Bush, Ed Gillespie, among others.
Cino is entering what is shaping up to be an increasingly crowded field of candidates vying to replace current RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who has remained silent on whether he will seek another term. Also competing for the job are former Michigan RNC Chair Saul Anuzis, former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner, Wisconsin GOP chief Reince Priebus.
Others who are considering a bid, but have not officially announced include former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, the RNC's former political director Gentry Collins, and former RNC chairman Mike Duncan.
Cino was CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention and previously served as deputy chair of the RNC, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and a transportation department official in the Bush administration. She was also political director for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.
Sources close to Cino said last week’s fundraiser, which took place at the home of Republican strategist Mary Matalin, a close friend and backer of Cino, was a success. Almost 400 people showed up -- twice the number expected and she “shattered her fundraising goals,” according to one attendee.
Here's the full text of Cino's letter to members of the RNC:
December 10, 2010
To the Member of the Republican National Committee:
Over these past few weeks, I have talked with almost every member of the Republican National Committee and deeply appreciate your observations, thoughts, and ideas.
We can win the White House, elect a new Senate Majority and grow our House Majority if we work hard together.
I have listened very carefully to you. I have the experience and qualifications needed to accomplish the very difficult tasks that lie ahead. I would very much appreciate your support.