Indian-American loses election to head Republican Party after challenging establishment

NEW YORK, JANUARY 28: Chandigarh-born Hermit Dillon lost her bid to head the Republican National Committee (RNC) despite a fierce battle to establish the Republican Party of the United States, which drew widespread support.

The RNC’s current chairman, Ronna McDaniels, was re-elected at a committee meeting in California on Friday.

With 51 votes to McDaniel’s 111 in the 168-man RNC, Dillon launched a grassroots campaign that drew dissatisfaction within the party that will have to face next year’s presidential election.

After the election, Dillon said, “At the end of the day, I think some people will take it away from this result if our party is seen as completely off the grassroots, but we know what we have to do. There are several.”

The Republican Party has two prominent women with Punjabi roots. Nikki Haley was the first Indian-American elected to the U.S. Cabinet and said she was “seriously” about her party’s presidential nomination.

The run-up to the RNC election was marred by allegations that McDaniels’ supporters had run a whispering campaign against Dillon based on her Sikh faith.

During the campaign, Dillon tweeted:

McDaniels denounced efforts to exploit religion against Dillon, citing her own belonging to the often negatively portrayed minority Mormons.

Dillon was endorsed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is a rising star within the party and is likely to challenge former President Donald Trump for the party’s presidential nomination next year.

DeSantis supported Dillon, saying in an interview with a leader of a conservative group within the party, “I think we need to bring new blood to the RNC.”

The party, chaired by McDaniels, lost the House of Representatives in 2018, the Senate and presidential elections in 2020, and struggled in last year’s midterm elections, fueling criticism of its leadership.

Dillon had the support of two state commissions in Nevada and Washington, four state party leaders, several prominent donors, and influential media figures within the party.

Trump, who has ties to both McDaniels and Dillon, has publicly remained neutral, although some media reports have reportedly secretly supported the incumbent.

He chose McDaniels to lead the RNC in 2017. Meanwhile, Dillon was one of his attorneys during the last presidential election and the House investigation into the January 2021 Capitol riots.

McDaniel is seen as working closely with Trump, and while Dillon hasn’t openly opposed him, he has denied Trump’s continued claims of being the legitimate winner of 2020.

But many conservative die-hard Trump supporters backed Dillon, and this may have alienated some moderate voters.

According to Politico, many were particularly reserved about Charlie Kirk, a “flaming conservative” who feared she might influence the party if elected.

Dillon, who immigrated to the United States as a child, said a Sikh prayer at the opening ceremony of the RNC’s session in 2016 – the first time a non-Abrahamic religion appeared at the National Party Convention.

Dillon, an attorney who primarily handles discrimination cases by conservatives, has ties to the American Civil Liberties Union, which many Republicans condemn.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at: [email protected] Follow @arulouis)

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