The Republican Party chose its first black national chairman Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first black president. The choice marked no less than "the dawn of a new party," declared the new chairman, Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Republicans chose Steele over four other candidates, including former US president George W. Bush's hand-picked Republican chief, who bowed out and declared: "Obviously the winds of change are blowing." Steele takes the helm of a beleaguered political party that is trying to recover after crushing defeats in November's national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress put Barack Obama in the White House. Republican delegates erupted in cheers and applause when Steele's victory was announced, but it took six ballots to get there. He will serve a two-year term.