The California Republican is hoping to unseat the national GOP leader


Growing frustration over the GOP’s election losses has sparked a contentious leadership battle pitting the popular California Republican against the national leader.

San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dillon, whose clients are trying to unseat former President Trump’s Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, will be decided at a caucus in Dana Point starting Wednesday.

Both women are fervent and vocal supporters of Trump — a reflection of the former president’s hold on the party more than two years after losing the White House. Both have pledged to remain neutral in the 2024 GOP presidential race if elected.

McDaniel, the nephew of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), is considered the frontrunner in the race. But Dhillon, the longtime leader of the state party, received support from prominent conservatives, including Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, in what appeared to be calculated attacks on Dhillon’s Sikh faith and McDaniel’s role in the party’s poor performance. in the last election.

Some committee members fear the increasingly ugly scandal will affect the future of the party and hope McDaniel and Dillon reconcile whatever the outcome.

“They both need to talk and agree that whoever wins, the other one will say the right thing and do the right thing,” said Mississippi committee member Henry Barbour, nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. . Henry Barbour refused to say who he would vote for in the contest. “If we can’t come together at the RNC, how can we expect voters to come together?”

Dillon’s surprise victory will also reinvigorate the California Republican Party, which has been politically neglected in recent decades, and will oversee the narrow victory of Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy to become House speaker. The rise of California Republicans to the top of national politics will go a long way to easing the pain of the party’s failure to win a statewide election since 2006.

“Harmit has a better chance than the public expected,” said Tim Miller, a former adviser to GOP presidential candidates who worked at the RNC but left the party in 2020. “The smart money is on Ronna. … The RNC presidential race has a lot to do with baseball. Ronna knows all these people, she’s been working with the inside game for years, which is a huge plus. But Harmeet is legitimately disappointed with the RNC.

But the task facing the next chairman of RUK, who will lead the party in the 2024 presidential elections, is not easy. Republican activists and donors have been angered by Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterm elections, their loss of the White House in 2020 and their failure to take control of the Senate and narrow gains in Congress last year when many experts predicted a red tide.

Dillon said those losses, along with McDaniel’s decision to run for an unprecedented fourth term, pushed him to lead the party. To help the rebound, the Republican Party must encourage the use of mail-in ballots, counter Democratic efforts to boost weak candidates in GOP primaries, and deliver smart messages to young and minority voters.

“We have to make a lot of changes to win 24,” Dillon said. “I’m so tired of Republicans losing elections.”

Born in India, Dillon, 54, and his family moved to Britain and then New York before settling in rural North Carolina. His parents registered as Republicans after becoming naturalized citizens, in part because his father, an orthopedic surgeon, despised medical malpractice lawsuits. They were motivated by the persecution of Sikhs in India, which then-Senator Jesse Helms (RN.C.) opposed. Dillon’s parents held fundraisers for Helms.

After graduating from law school, Dillon settled in San Francisco. He became active in Bay Area politics after hosting debates for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004 and was elected vice chairman of the state GOP in 2013. Three years later, he was elected one of three representatives in the Republican Party of California. National. Committee on which he has served ever since.

The fame of Dhillon and his law firm has grown exponentially during the Trump administration and the pandemic. He appears frequently in conservative media, and his law firm has filed lawsuits over conservative rights on college campuses, COVID restrictions and other causes dear to Republican voters. Earlier this month, the nonprofit she founded sued a California school district for allegedly helping to reassign an elementary school student without telling her parents.

“Harmit was tough, he wasn’t afraid to challenge incumbents,” said former state party chairman Ron Nehring. “He’s very action-oriented, and that worked in his favor.”

Dhillon was a delegate for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the 2016 presidential election, before resigning to join husband Sarvijit Randhawa as a delegate for Trump and becoming a vocal supporter of the reality TV star-turned-developer. .

His tactics, especially his work on behalf of Holocaust deniers like Trump, have been criticized. His law firm represented the former president at congressional hearings on the January 6, 2021 coup. After the 2022 FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, Dillon called federal law enforcement “totally corrupt” and said the FBI and Justice Department “have been thoroughly involved in several elections over the last few.” . He also accused federal authorities of covering up President Biden’s handling of classified documents to influence the outcome of the 2022 election.

Dillon represented unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who ruled out a potential run to represent Dillon at this week’s meeting.

Dhillon also helped raise money for Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, telling his Twitter followers to “STOP STEALING” and encouraging them to contribute to the Election Defense Fund. Trump’s.

Trump chose McDaniel to chair the RNC after his election in 2016 and has endorsed him for two re-elections. But he remained publicly neutral in the race between McDaniel and Dillon.

“I can honestly say I love them both,” he said on The Water Cooler podcast last week. “Let them fight.”

Both contestants say the competition is influenced by consultants who want to win lucrative contracts with the RNC. But the ugliest conflict in the race revolves around religion.

Dhillon gained national attention in 2016 when he addressed the Sikh challenge at the GOP convention. He and his allies say McDaniel’s supporters are undermining Dhillon’s candidacy because he is not a Christian and has threatened the party’s focus on religious freedom by sharing a video of him reciting a Sikh prayer in Punjabi.

A supporter of North Dakota Committeewoman Lori Hintz said Thursday, “I’m shocked, disappointed, and frankly, upset that he’s using bigotry as a tactic to get votes for his favorite candidate.” de Dhillon, to other members of the committee. He said he was urged not to support Dhillon by a McDaniel ally because of his religion. “This cannot be us as a party,” he wrote.

Attacks on Dhillon’s credibility were the same as when he was running for the California Republican Party’s vice presidential nomination in 2013 – the convention hall was filled with flyers calling Dhillon the “Taj Mahal Princess” and his opponents whispered about it. He used to slaughter a goat in the tent during the meeting.

McDaniel, whose representatives did not respond to requests for comment, condemned the harassment. He noted that he is a Mormon, a faith that has long been under attack.

“I wholeheartedly condemn religious bigotry in any form,” McDaniel said in a Fox News Digital article published Friday. “We are a party of faith, family and freedom, and these attacks have no place in our party or politics. As a member of a minority religion, I would never tolerate such attacks.

McDaniel, 49, is a former leader of the Michigan Republican Party. He stopped using the Romney name after becoming RNC chair, apparently because Trump asked, according to the Washington Post. Trump and Senator Mitt Romney have been highly critical of each other, with Romney attacking Trump’s character and Trump calling Romney a loser.

McDaniel has released a list of more than 100 committee members who support him, guaranteeing his re-election. The competition is decided by a majority vote of 168 members of the RNC. Dillon declined to say how many committee members support his nomination.

McDaniel’s supporters include Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman, who praised his support for his state’s 2024 Republican presidential primary caucus and criticized McDaniel for the party’s performance last year.

“The president of the RNC doesn’t pick the nominees and oversees what they get,” Kaufman said, referring to victories in his state and others. “Everybody wanted to be like Iowa and Ohio and they had a red tide. It didn’t happen.

Dhillon’s California RNC members — state party chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson and Sean Steele, husband of Republican Orange County Rep. Michelle Steele — also support McDaniel. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Mike Lindell, founder of My Youth, an ardent Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist, is also running for president. At the RNC meeting this week at the Waldorf Astoria, he is expected to win marginal support. A separate candidate forum is scheduled for Wednesday evening, and the presidential vote is expected to take place on Friday.

Voting will be by secret ballot, Nehring said.

“Usually the votes for the incumbent are the highest on the first ballot. “If they fail in the first round, they are unlikely to win the next election,” he said. “The election is a referendum on the current president.”

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