RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel elected to fourth consecutive term

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks during a volunteer appreciation event at the APA Community Center in Westminster, California, on January 24, 2023.

Dana Point, California CNN  — 

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.

After her win Friday, McDaniel invited Dhillon and Lindell onstage for a photo op, implicitly attempting to rebut criticism about the fractured nature of the party. “With us united and all of us going together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024,” McDaniel said.

But moments later, Dhillon told reporters that GOP leaders would have to reckon with widespread distrust in the party among rank-and-file voters across the country – which she said was reflected in the support she garnered as she challenged McDaniel over the past two months.

“The results were not what we or hundreds of thousands of supporters around the country were hoping for, and I think the party is going to have to deal with that fallout of being in a disconnect from the grassroots,” Dhillon told reporters outside the RNC’s general session at the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach resort.

“The party is not united, but it’s our job to try and unite the party, and that’s going to mean changes at the RNC,” Dhillon added.

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.” On Friday, he congratulated McDaniel on her “big WIN” in a post on his Truth Social platform.

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.

Attorney Harmeet Dhillon speaks during an event organized by Turning Point USA in Phoenix on December 20, 2022.

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.

As the GOP wrestles with how much influence Trump should exert over the party’s leadership and machinery, Trump’s candidates for RNC co-chair and treasurer were defeated during the voting on leadership positions by RNC members Friday afternoon in Dana Point, California.

Trump’s endorsed candidate for RNC co-chair, North Carolina Republican Chairman Michael Whatley, withdrew after trailing South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick, who won after several rounds of voting. Trump had recently endorsed Whatley after crediting him with “leading North Carolina to tremendous success in the recent election” and said he was “MAGA all the way.” Trump’s choice for RNC Treasurer, Joe Gruters – the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida who had backed McDaniel in her run for a fourth consecutive term – also lost on Friday. Vicki Drummond of Alabama was reelected to a term as treasurer.

RNC members also approved a resolution opposing “all forms of antisemitism, antisemitic statements and any antisemitic elements that seek to infiltrate the Republican Party.” The resolution explicitly condemned White supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West – who have well-publicized antisemitic views and dined with Trump in November at his Mar-a-Lago estate – by name.

The resolution approved by a voice vote Friday said that the Republican National Committee “formally condemns, denounces, censures and opposes Kanye West, also known as Ye, Nicholas ‘Nick’ Fuentes, Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush and all others promoting their antisemitism beliefs.” It added that the Republican National Committee “affirms antisemitism has no place in our political party, American politics, or any political discourse.”

Trump acknowledged that the dinner occurred in a post on Truth Social after the controversy erupted, stating that West had unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends “whom I knew nothing about” and described the dinner as “quick and uneventful.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Gabby Orr contributed to this report.