Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

WASHINGTON — Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin said Wednesday he will not run for chair of the Republican National Committee, but said neither should incumbent chair Ronna McDaniel because of the “disappointing” election results during her tenure.

A day after the Republicans’ latest loss by Herschel Walker to Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff election Tuesday, Zeldin (R-Shirley) said he had seriously considered challenging McDaniel but has determined he cannot win.

“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,” Zeldin said in a Twitter post.

“RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel should not run for a 4th term,” he said. “It’s time the GOP elects new leadership! It’s time for fresh blood!”

Zeldin acknowledged that McDaniel appears to have enough votes to win reelection when the Republican National Committee convenes for its annual winter meeting in late January in Dana Point, Calif.

Former President Donald Trump as of now will remain neutral in the race and not weigh in, according to Fox News, citing sources in Trump’s political orbit.

On Monday morning, McDaniel supporters circulated an endorsement letter that included nearly two thirds of the 168 voters who will elect the next chair, well above the majority she needs, a spokesperson with her reelection team said.

Zeldin, 42, a four-term congressman, signaled his interest in the party chairmanship in a Nov. 17 letter to the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee, touting the successes of his run for New York governor.

Zeldin, who lost to Democrat Kathy Hochul, said his campaign created the strongest Republican challenge in decades to a sitting Democratic New York governor, and spawned a “Red Wave that decimated Democrats in New York, flipping four Congressional seats from blue to red — the most in the entire country.”

McDaniel, 49, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), became RNC chair in 2016 when Trump appointed her as she served as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. RNC members have reelected her twice to two-year terms since then.

Supporters say that under McDaniel, the RNC invested more in state parties than before and ran a program that trained more than 1 million grassroots volunteers who made over 100 million voter contacts, including at least 1 million contacts in 21 battleground states.

But during McDaniel’s tenure, Democrats won the majority in the House in 2018 and in 2020 won the majority in both the House and Senate, along with the White House.

This year, Democrats increased their Senate majority to 51 and narrowly lost control of the House.

McDaniel will face at least two other challengers at the January RNC meeting: Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC member from California and former Trump campaign legal adviser, and Trump supporter Mike Lindell, the CEO of the MyPillow company who denies Biden's election.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former Trump White House adviser Mercedes Schlapp also are weighing runs for the chair, Fox News reported.

A week ago, Zeldin declined to say if he would run for RNC chair.

“I wouldn't make any decision before Tuesday's runoff in Georgia no matter what,” he told Newsday.

But after Warnock won the runoff, giving Senate Democrats a 51-vote majority in the next term, Zeldin criticized McDaniel’s leadership 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,” Zeldin said.


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