Lee Zeldin Will Not Challenge Ronna McDaniel: Her Victory Is ‘Pre-Baked by Design’

Republican candidate for New York governor U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks to reporters after participating in a debate against incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted by Spectrum News NY1, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at Pace University in New York. (Mary Altaffer, Pool/AP)
Mary Altaffer, Pool/AP

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) announced on Wednesday that he will not challenge Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel for the leadership position due to the fact that her victory is “pre-baked by design.” However, he made clear that it is not a signal of support for McDaniel, as the New York congressman said she should not be running again.

It has been rumored for weeks that Zeldin, who ran one of the closest gubernatorial races in the Empire State in two decades, has been considering a bid for RNC chairman. Earlier this week, Zeldin confirmed that he has been “seriously considering” the requests to run and said he would announce his decision on Wednesday so as not to take away from the runoff election in Georgia, which resulted in a victory for Democrat Raphael Warnock (D-GA). 

However, despite the requests for Zeldin to run, he announced — on Wednesday, as promised — that he will not.

“RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel should not run for a 4th term. 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,” he explained.

“It’s time the GOP elects new leadership! It’s time for fresh blood!” he exclaimed, providing his full statement:

While Zeldin said he is grateful for the encouragement to seek the position, identifying himself as one of many who are “ready and willing to step up,” McDaniel’s reelection “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, however, said he is “committed to doing absolutely everything in my power to help save our country with every ounce of my energy.”

The Republican Party, he continued, must “become more successful at fundraising, more efficient with spending, sharper with ballot collection and election integrity efforts, smarter with messaging, more present in Democrat strongholds, and more connected to the grassroots.”

Further, Zeldin said there needs to be more local collaboration, more risks, and “fresh blood.”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration and campaign continue to claim that there may have been widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020, in Washington, DC.

“We must also do a far better job communicating not just what we are against related to the terrible policies of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, but specifically what we are for as Republicans,” he continued, explaining that the GOP cannot create a movement by acting like Democrats.

That aside, Zeldin explained that a candidate for RNC chair “must receive a majority vote of the 168 members of the RNC.” Because of that, he took time to speak with members to “gauge their desire to change and improve the RNC.” However, while the grassroots is “frustrated,” it does not appear that Zeldin believes he could garner a majority away from McDaniel, deeming her reelection “predetermined.”

“The better path forward would be for Chairwoman McDaniel to listen and respect the wishes of the actual grassroots voters of our party, and allow the RNC to forge ahead with new leadership,” Zeldin said.

“Her greatest service to the Republican Party at this time would be to make room for a new Chair,” he added.

McDaniel expressed her intention to run for reelection last month. She has served in the role since 2017.

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