Dana Point, California
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was elected to a fourth consecutive term Friday after winning the support of about two-thirds of the RNC members who gathered here for their winter meeting.
McDaniel fended off a stronger-than-expected challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman from California and an attorney who has represented former President Donald Trump.
The vote was conducted by secret ballot and McDaniel needed a majority of the members casting ballots to win. After just one round of voting, the parliamentarian announced that McDaniel had received 111 of the 167 votes cast. Dhillon received 51 votes and four ballots were cast for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a 2020 election denier and ardent Trump backer.
Dhillon had argued the party needed to “radically reshape” its leadership amid recriminations about Republicans’ lackluster showing in the midterm elections, which compounded disappointments over the results in the previous two cycles.
Both McDaniel and Dhillon have ties to Trump. The former president backed McDaniel when she first ran for party chair in 2017. Dhillon’s law firm represented Trump in his dealings with the House select committee that investigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The RNC paid more than $1 million for the legal work.
But Trump stayed neutral in the race for RNC chair, stating that McDaniel and Dhillon should “fight it out.” Trump’s likely rival in the 2024 contest for the White House, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, weighed in on the race in an interview that posted Thursday, telling Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, a conservative web show host, that it was time for “some new blood in the RNC.” But the GOP governor stopped short of offering a formal endorsement of Dhillon.
The feud between McDaniel and Dhillon has underscored the fractious nature of the Republican Party at this moment. There are broad disagreements among RNC members about how to steer the party back into a position of strength before the 2024 presidential election, with Trump already an announced candidate. Dhillon, for example, has said the party must do more to encourage early voting to compete with Democrats after years in which Trump has undermined that method of casting ballots in his quest to sow doubt in election results.
During a speech at the beginning of Friday’s meeting, McDaniel implicitly pushed back at criticisms of her leadership record as she argued that the party must be united headed into 2024. “We’re working overtime to learn the lessons of the midterms – what went right and what went wrong,” she said.
McDaniel won public commitments from more than 100 RNC members to back her before Friday’s secret ballot election that unfolded among other votes on party business and resolutions. Dhillon’s allies had suggested that many members would switch to the California committeewoman when the secret voting began, but that dynamic did not pan out.
The race for RNC chair had grown increasingly contentious over the past two months with Dhillon allies raising questions about the compensation and benefits that McDaniel earned as party chair, and McDaniel supporters pointing to the lucrative payments Dhillon’s law group has received for representing both Trump and the RNC. Both women assured members that they would look closely the RNC’s spending on consultants and outside vendors as the party charts the course forward into the next cycle.
This story has been updated with additional information.