RNC elects Michigan’s Romney McDaniel as chair

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel is now chair of the Republican National Committee, following her unanimous election during the RNC’s winter meeting Thursday morning.

President-elect Donald Trump endorsed McDaniel for the post in mid-December, and her election was uncontested. She succeeds Reince Priebus, who is leaving the committee to serve as Trump’s chief of staff.

“I am a mom from Michigan. I am an outsider. And I am going to do everything I can to make Donald Trump and Republicans everywhere successful,” McDaniel said following her election by a rising vote in which committee members stand up to show their support.

McDaniel said she was humbled to become the second woman elected to chair the RNC.

“For far too long, Democrats have hailed themselves as the party of women. As Republicans, we know their so-called monopoly on being the party of women is false, and it is a mindset I intend to change,” she said to applause.

As chair, McDaniel pledged to work to unite the party and make it more inclusive, saying the nation’s future relies on providing every individual a chance to succeed “regardless of gender, race or circumstance.”

“Our party is at a record level of strength, and we’re going to keep it that way,” she added referring to GOP control of the White House and Congress, as well as 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures, including in Michigan.

McDaniel promised to amplify the voices of workers “left behind by a stagnant economy” and the “failed promises of Obamacare” or Affordable Care Act, including the “factory worker in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the “woman at the salon in Ypsilanti.”

“I pledge to you, we will change Washington. We will compete everywhere. We will succeed. We will win,” she said.

At least three dozen friends, colleagues and family members from Michigan were in the audience in a conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in support of McDaniel. They included Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, former state GOP chairmen Bobby Schostak and Rusty Hills, and Lena Epstein, who co-chaired Trump’s campaign in Michigan.

McDaniel will be the first woman to hold the committee’s top position in 40 years. The first female chair was Mary Louise Smith of Iowa in the 1970s.

“I think that’s wonderful,” said Ginger Howard, a national committeewoman from Georgia. “She did a great job in Michigan. I trust Donald Trump, and I trust his picks.”

In his goodbye speech, Priebus echoed comments by Trump last month when he said McDaniel “barely slept” during the election to deliver Michigan for the Republicans. Bob Paduchik, director of Trump’s Ohio campaign, will be the RNC’s new co-chair.

“Can’t do much better than Michigan and Ohio on election night,” Priebus said.

“Ronna knew what she was doing. It’s that level of passion, along with her commitment to build out the ground, data and digital operation the RNC has been working on for years, that gives me total confidence that she is the right woman to lead the RNC. And it is time for a woman to lead the RNC.”

McDaniel has led the Michigan Republican Party since February 2015, having served as a precinct delegate, district committee executive member and state committeewoman. She was a vocal Trump supporter last fall, warming up crowds at rallies for the New York businessman, who broke a string of six straight Michigan wins by Democratic presidential candidates.

McDaniel is the granddaughter of former Michigan Gov. George Romney. She is the niece of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who publicly opposed Trump’s election but has since met with the president-elect while he was under consideration for secretary of state before Trump tapped Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

As a state party chair, McDaniel is already one of the 168 members of the Republican National Committee. Another Michigan committee member, Kathy Berden, gave the invocation at the start of the meeting.

Michigan’s other national committee member is Rob Steele, an Ann Arbor cardiologist.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is in Washington but not at the RNC meeting, issued a statement congratulating McDaniel and praising her “excellent skills and political acumen.”

“Ronna is a perfect example for Michigan, and the nation, about Michiganders relentless determination for success,” Snyder said. “Above all, I am very proud to call her my friend and wish her the best of luck.”

McDaniel and her family plan to keep their home in Northville and commute between Michigan and an apartment in the Washington area, said her husband, Patrick McDaniel. The couple has two children, 13-year-old Abigail and 11-year-old Nash.

McDaniel holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. In Northville, she has served on land planning and public safety committees and is active in her local parent teacher association.

McDaniel keeps her position as chair of the Michigan GOP until the Republican convention in Lansing Feb. 10 and 11.

Those seeking to succeed McDaniel as chief of the state party include Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan state director for the Trump campaign, and Ron Weiser, the Ann Arbor real estate developer, former Michigan party chairman and former RNC finance chair.

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