Ronna McDaniel won a fourth term to head the Republican National Committee (RNC) during a secret ballot vote by members on Friday, capping off a contentious election spurred by calls within the party for new leadership.
McDaniel fended off two challengers — California attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a staunch denier of the 2020 presidential election results.
She received 111 votes, while Dhillon received 51 and Lindell received four. Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who did not ultimately make a run for RNC chair, also received one vote.
The last three elections have proven disappointing for Republicans: The party lost the House in 2018, lost the Senate and presidency in 2020 and only gained a thin majority in the House in 2022. Many in the party cited last November’s midterms as a reason to elect fresh blood, as McDaniel oversaw the RNC through the last three elections.
McDaniel, in brief remarks, told RNC committee members that she heard the concerns from those who voiced criticism in the wake of the November elections while also projecting unity within the party.
“We need all of us. We heard you, grassroots. We know. We heard Harmeet, we heard Mike Lindell. But with us united and all of us going together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024 when we take back the White House and the Senate,” she said to applause in the room.
While the incumbent was predicted to win, the race was another example of intraparty tensions.
Some top Republicans, like former President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), avoided weighing in the race. But others waded in, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative Turning Point USA, in an interview aired Thursday, “I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC.”
“I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C. Why would you want to have your headquarters in the most Democrat city in America? It’s more Democrat than San Francisco is,” he added.
Dhillon’s campaign website offered the names of only 29 state chairs and RNC committee members endorsing her, noting it was a “partial list.”
Meanwhile, more than 150 Republican donors endorsed McDaniel in the leadership race, and some lawmakers, like Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), also backed the incumbent.
“.@GOPChairwoman has played a major role in helping turn Florida red and fighting for conservative values across the country,” Scott tweeted. “Thank you Ronna for all you’ve done to help elect strong Republicans in the Sunshine state!”
McDaniel has defended her tenure in the RNC, arguing that she was not responsible for the way Republicans performed in the November midterms.
“I’m not the coach. I don’t pick the players, the voters do. I don’t call the plays, the candidates pick their own plays,” she told Semafor in an interview published earlier this month.
“I mean, we defied history in 2018, picking up three Senate seats in a midterm year. We picked up 15 seats in 2020 in the House, which was unprecedented, and then this year, winning back the House,” she also noted at the time.
But Dhillon and some members of the party remained unconvinced, arguing that the GOP could have had better election cycles. The RNC election follows a contentious House Speaker race, which saw a group of Republicans splitting from the rest of the caucus before electing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in the 15th vote.
Trump cheered on McDaniel’s win in a post on his Truth Social, writing, “Congratulations to Ronna McDaniel on her big WIN as RNC CHAIR.”