- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2023

DANA POINT, Calif. — Harmeet Dhillon‘s supporters insist she’s got a shot at beating Ronna McDaniel in the secret ballot vote Friday to name the new chair of the Republican National Committee.

They claim Mrs. McDaniel, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as RNC chair, has suffered secret defections from her list of more than 100 RNC members who have pledged their support for her reelection.

“She does not have 85 votes — not hard,” a GOP operative with Ms. Dhillon‘s whip operation said referring to 85 votes needed to win. “She’s in the 70s. She certainly does not have over 100.”

The operative told The Washington Times that some of Mrs. McDaniel’s 105 supporters have secretly switched to Ms. Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman from California.

“There’s a window for Harmeet to win. It’s closer than people think,” the operative said, though he conceded that Mrs. McDaniel is still in the lead.

The committee‘s 168 members — composed of three representatives from each state and the U.S. territories — will vote by secret ballot on the last day of the RNC winter meeting at a luxurious seaside resort in Dana Point.

SEE ALSO: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel expected to win reelection; backers say she unites, builds the party

Under RNC rules, the winner must capture a majority of the votes. If no one wins in the first round of voting, members will continue to cast ballots until a winner emerges.

Though Mrs. McDaniel appears to be on a glide path to reelection, she has been closely scrutinized for the losses in the 2018 and 2020 elections and the lack of an expected red wave in the 2022 midterms.

“Ronna is good at some things. I’m a lawyer, and I’m good at other things. I think being good at fundraising is necessary, but not sufficient to win elections. That’s the key. Job one has to be making sure that Republicans’ ballots are returned to the ballot box,” Ms. Dhillon told reporters at the winter meeting.

Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and supporter of former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election, also is on the ballot. He is not considered a serious contender.

The three Republicans running for RNC chair gathered at a closed candidate forum Wednesday night and answered questions from RNC members. Following the forum, Ms. Dhillon told reporters she addressed concerns about what some say is the negative tone of the race for chair.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, you have to make the case for why change is necessary. And, you know, I am running an insurgent campaign that has been driven by grassroots donors, supporters, and even candidates all over the country. And so they’re very passionate,” she said. “And what’s at stake here is the future of our country. In our country right now, people are very upset.”

She acknowledged that RNC members were faced with an unprecedented volume of uncomfortable emails and phone calls. She said she told them to use these new contacts to their advantage.

Some of the emails filling RNC members’ inboxes also came from Mr. Lindell’s supporters.

“Some members of the RNC are not used to hearing from the voters who put us into our offices, and I’ve apologized to those people who are upset about that,” she said. “Many more members of the RNC have told me they added those names to their mailing list, and they’re hitting them up for contributions, and they’re getting their input. So I think it has been a mixed reaction.”

She pledged at the candidate forum that regardless of who wins the chair race, she will support that person and be involved with the party.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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