Outgoing Rep. Lee Zeldin said Wednesday he won’t run for chairman of the Republican National Committee because he lacks the votes to topple current RNC leader Ronna McDaniel, who is seeking a fourth term despite lackluster GOP results in last month’s midterm elections.
“I am grateful for all the messages I have received from across the country the past few weeks encouraging me to run for Chair of the Republican National Committee,” Zeldin, 42, said in a statement. “Change is desperately needed, and there are many leaders, myself included, ready and willing to step up to ensure our party retools and transforms as critical elections fast approach, namely the 2024 Presidential and Congressional races.
“However,” Zeldin added, “the issue is Chairwoman McDaniel’s re-election appears to already be pre-baked, as if the disappointing results of every election during her tenure, including yesterday in Georgia, do not and should not even matter.”
Zeldin, the GOP candidate for governor in New York, lost to Democrat Kathy Hochul by just over 327,000 votes out of more than 5.7 million cast — and his strong performance at the top of the ticket in the battleground suburbs helped Republicans win four more House seats in New York to push the GOP past the 218-seat benchmark needed to regain a majority.
Grassroots Republican activists were so impressed with Zeldin’s showing in the deep-blue Empire State that they encouraged him to run for RNC chair, and he garnered some support — but not enough to win the vote.
“I won’t be running for RNC Chair at this time with McDaniel’s reelection pre-baked by design, but that doesn’t mean she should even be running again,” the Long Island lawmaker said in a tweet accompanying his statement.
“It’s time the GOP elects new leadership! It’s time for fresh blood!”
The RNC chair is elected by 168 committee members — governors, other elected officials and other party insiders.
“Republican voters already believe that Washington, D.C. is an irredeemable swamp,” Zeldin said. “They will be proven right, yet again, if Chairwoman McDaniel moves forward with running for a fourth term, despite her prior pledge not to do so. It appears to me that her re-election with a majority vote from the 168 RNC members would then be pre-determined.
“The better path forward would be for Chairwoman McDaniel to listen to and respect the wishes of the actual grassroots voters of our party, and allow the RNC to forge ahead with new leadership. Her greatest service to the Republican Party at this time would be to make room for a new Chair.”
Under McDaniel’s leadership, Republicans lost the House in 2018, the White House and Senate in 2020 — with Joe Biden defeating former President Donald Trump — before barely reclaiming the House last month.
Other candidates have expressed interest in running for RNC chairman, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and attorney and former California GOP vice chair Harmeet Dhillon.
“No matter what, I am committed to doing absolutely everything in my power to help save our country with every ounce of my energy,” said Zeldin, who warned the GOP must get better at fundraising, candidate recruitment, voter registration, ballot and election integrity efforts, messaging and becoming more active in Democratic strongholds.
Zeldin also said the GOP must do a better job explaining what it stands for rather than just slamming the “terrible policies” of President Biden and the Democrats.
“It is the Republican Party that has the many ideas our nation needs right now to deliver safer streets, upward economic mobility, better schools, the preservation of freedom and liberty, and so much more,” he said. “The Republican Party needs to be all in to do everything in its power to save America.”