(Bloomberg) -- Ronna McDaniel won a fourth term as Republican National Committee chair on Friday, a status quo choice by party faithful even after a series of stinging election defeats with Donald Trump as the GOP standard-bearer.
McDaniel prevailed over California lawyer and RNC member Harmeet Dhillon and My Pillow Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell in a secret ballot at the party’s meeting in California, capping a contentious campaign that exposed deep divisions within the ranks.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as a likely rival to Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, called for a leadership change during an interview the day before.
McDaniel had 111 votes to 51 for Dhillon and four for Lindell.
Many Republicans attending the three-day gathering at a luxury resort in Dana Point, California, downplayed the fissures exposed by the battle and by the embarrassing and protracted vote to elect Kevin McCarthy as US House Speaker earlier this month. They expressed confidence the GOP would unite behind McDaniel heading into the 2024 elections, but acrimony could still linger.
In her speech before the vote, McDaniel touted her record as chair and called for the party to unify.
“Nothing we do is more important than making sure that Joe Biden is a one-term president,” McDaniel said. “But in order to do that, we have to be united.”
Dhillon told reporters after the vote that she was disappointed by the results and suggested party resources were used to make deals to secure votes for McDaniel, such as promises for positions on committees. She said she hopes the party will make changes.
“I’m committed to healing and coming together with folks,” Dhillon said. “But at the end of the day, if our party is perceived as totally out of touch with the grassroots — which I think some may take away from this outcome — we have some work to do.”
While Trump hand-picked McDaniel to run the RNC in 2016, he didn’t endorse a candidate in the race because he said he liked both her and Dhillon, who represented him before the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection. Both candidates garnered the backing of staunch Trump supporters and critics, showing the extent of the intra-party feud.
Both candidates said they didn’t seek Trump’s endorsement because the party must remain neutral in the 2024 nomination race.
The RNC members didn’t elect Trump’s endorsed candidate for RNC co-chair, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley, who dropped out after no one got a majority in two rounds of voting. South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick ultimately won.
Trump’s endorsed candidate for RNC Treasurer, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, also lost to Kentucky committeewoman KC Crosbie.
Jim Dicke, an RNC member from Ohio who supported McDaniel, said he and other members were satisfied with her leadership and the team she’s assembled — and that it would be a mistake to start over with the 2024 presidential election approaching.
“I’m not sure the party can afford to completely tear up the organization and start over two years before a presidential election,” Dicke said.
McDaniel had the public support of dozens of major donors, including billionaire Diane Hendricks, chair and founder of ABC Supply Co. Inc., and members who argued that she wasn’t to blame for weak candidates losing winnable races.
She campaigned on continuing her expansion of the RNC’s grassroots outreach and operations and healing an organization riven by infighting.
The Case for Change
Dhillon and McDaniel’s critics said the RNC needed a wholesale overhaul in leadership and operations after Republicans lost control of the White House, US House, and US Senate and fell far short of expectations in November’s midterm elections.
Dhillon called for an audit of RNC finances with competitive bidding for contracts. She also opposed the party’s reluctance to embrace early voting to better compete with Democrats, even though Trump regularly calls for Republicans to vote only on Election Day and in person.
GOP organizations in multiple states including Arizona, Alabama and Texas passed resolutions opposing McDaniel’s reelection.
Peter Feaman, a national committeeman from Florida who supported Dhillon, said the GOP needed a new leader to appeal to major donors who have lost confidence in the party’s ability to deliver victories. Dhillon was publicly backed by donors including Home Depot Inc. co-founder Bernie Marcus and Uline Inc. Chief Executive Richard Uihlein. His wife, Liz Uihlein, also a co-founder of the company, supported McDaniel.
The RNC also approved nine resolutions, including one opposing antisemitism that formally condemns three Democratic US House members plus the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes, who both dined with Trump last November. Another called for banning TikTok on all federal devices and discouraging its use on private devices. A resolution opposing the use of ranked-choice voting in elections also passed.
(Updates with other officer elections from 12th paragraph)
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