RI GOP National Committeeman Frias votes to keep 'Ronna Romney McDaniel' at head of RNC

PROVIDENCE — Two of Rhode Island's own beleaguered Republicans were present and voting Friday when the fractured Republican National Committee voted on whether to keep Ronna McDaniel as chair for two more years or replace her after a disappointing election blamed by many on former President Donald Trump.

McDaniel won a fourth two-year term at the helm of the party.

Rhode Island Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias was among those voting for "Ronna Romney McDaniel," as he calls her. National Republican Committeewoman Lee Ann Sennick did not attend, but confirmed on Monday that she too voted for McDaniel by proxy. (State GOP chair Sue Cienki has not responded to inquiries.)

Frias told The Journal: "There were various reasons why Republicans underperformed in 2022, but McDaniel was not one of them. The RNC did its job in 2022," Frias told The Providence Journal on Friday afternoon.

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"The two main reasons why Republicans did not do better in 2022 were the Dobbs decision [overturning Roe v. Wade], which increased Democratic turnout, and former President Trump's high-profile involvement in the midterm elections, which cost us swing voters.

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at a Get Out To Vote rally in Tampa, Fla., in October.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at a Get Out To Vote rally in Tampa, Fla., in October.

"Hopefully, we will realize this before the 2024 election," Frias said.

McDaniel, 49, is the granddaughter of a moderate Republican governor of Michigan, George Romney, and a niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah.

She faced a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California lawyer with a Rhode Island connection, who has represented Trump and the unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, and Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and prominent backer of Trump's discredited voter-fraud claims.

Rhode Island Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias.
Rhode Island Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias.

Dhillon attempted to capitalize on "grass-roots furor demanding new leadership after a string of electoral failures," according to a Washington Post analysis of the contest.

The sometimes scatological headlines going into the tense Friday vote in Dana Point, California, gave a sense of the drama:

"Republicans Weigh Potential R.N.C. Shake-Up After a Disappointing 2022," said The New York Times. "RNC chair seeks to quell revolt, divisions ahead of tense Friday election," said The Washington Post. "There's a very competitive race to become the chair of the Republican Party — and it's a total "S--tShow," said Vanity Fair.

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Dhillon was the lawyer representing Alex and Ani, the company founded in Rhode Island that created iconic charm bracelets, in a 2019 discrimination lawsuit against Bank of America that sought $1.2 billion in damages.

Alex and Ani's argument: Bank of America wrongly placed the jewelry maker in default on a $170-million loan and froze a $50-million revolving line of credit because of age and gender discrimination.

"The endgame is clear: Bank of America wants the women out of power at Alex and Ani," the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged. "Bank of America has been both driving Alex and Ani towards bankruptcy and milking it for literally tens of millions of dollars in fees."

The Rhode Island jewelry company subsequently agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case after reaching a confidential agreement with Bank of America.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI GOP National Committeeman Frias votes to keep McDaniel at RNC helm