Here Comes Harmeet Dhillon
Inside Harmeet Dhillon’s bid for Chair of the Republican National Committee
In the weeks following the 2022 midterm elections, Harmeet Dhillon, the Republican National Committee (RNC) Comitteewoman from California and a lawyer by trade, received a letter disseminated by the current RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel. Despite an abysmal performance by Republicans, about 100 individuals in high-ranking Republican circles signed on to the letter in support of McDaniel’s continued leadership.
McDaniel, who became RNC Chair at the behest of then-President Donald Trump in early 2017, has presided over the RNC for the past six years with little to show for it. In 2018, Republicans lost the House. In 2020, they lost the Senate and the presidency. (Stolen election or not, the fact remains: Joe Biden is in the White House. Trump is not.) Because the election was still being litigated through the end of 2020 and into early 2021, however, McDaniel did not step down and the rest of the RNC, some more begrudgingly than others, allowed her to keep the chair.
But after the third consecutive disappointing election season for Republicans, Dhillon had enough. “I started talking with other RNC members and influential people in the party. How could we possibly let this go on?” Dhillon told The American Conservative in a phone interview. “I knew the status quo couldn’t just continue on. There had to be some kind of change. I thought there would be candidates to come out against the current Chair and I’d consider them, but no one stepped up.”
After considerable amounts of prayer, conversations with her family, and consulting politically minded people she trusted both in and outside the party apparatus, Dhillon decided she was going to step up.
In the brief period since Dhillon announced her candidacy, she’s been gaining on McDaniel. Several Republican heavyweights—like Virginia RNC Committeeman Morton Blackwell, Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi, Alabama GOP Chair Paul Reynolds, and Arizona GOP Chair Kelly Ward—and mainstays of the conservative movement—from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson to the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro—have come out in support of Dhillon’s bid. So too have a number of conservative lawmakers, such as Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna.
One of the RNC Committee members who has endorsed Dhillon's bid, Tyler Bowyer of Arizona, tells TAC, "My position is very simple. I'm from Arizona. And I don't think that the National Republican apparatus did enough to help us in Arizona and 2022. If we're going to win the presidency, a vast majority of scenarios include Arizona as the pathway to win. In order to win, we have to have somebody that's going to focus on Arizona, and we have no clear and decisive plan from the current regime." Dhillon, on the other hand, is "focused in on Arizona a lot more than than the current administration," according to Bowyer.
Richard Uihlein, a conservative donor and co-founder of the shipping supplies giant Uline, has also endorsed Dhillon. "Of all the candidates, Harmeet Dhillon is best positioned to lead the RNC forward effectively," he tells TAC. "Her laser focus on winning elections, her aggressive nature, her thorough knowledge of election law and procedures, and her stellar communications skills, are among the attributes that lead to my conclusion."
Dhillon’s ability to get several of the 168 electors to consider her candidacy more carefully is no small feat because, despite the current chair’s seemingly obvious and abundant failings, the powers that be within the Republican party are just as entrenched as the Washington establishment. There’s certainly overlap when it comes to the cast of characters that comprise each, but the institutions prove themselves different beasts.
Dhillon, who has served on the RNC for six years, describes the incentive structures that plague the RNC and make it lethargic to the point of being inoperable. “The way it seems to work these days is that someone gets brought on early in their career or a little further on, and they eventually rise up the ranks and gain favor with the RNC. They then eventually move off of the RNC’s payroll or stay with the RNC and start their own consulting firms, which are then brought in by the RNC to provide consultant services,” Dhillon explains. “Some of these people, it is rumored, could be double, triple, or even quadruple dipping into RNC funds—funds that we should be using to win elections and ensure election security.” She adds that “the current Chair has denied this is happening, but they could put that all to rest with a little bit of transparency, which the current Chair has resisted.”
Dhillon tells TAC that some Republican lawmakers and candidates she's spoken with, including two she identified as presidential hopefuls, also recognize the decline in the RNC's ability to meet its stated goal of winning elections. Both presidential hopefuls, according to Dhillon, told her privately that they might not bother trying to solicit the level of help the RNC has provided Republican presidential candidates in recent years. But Dhillon explains that the RNC can provide, among other advantages to Republican candidates, massive amounts of information and data-sharing. "There's no substitute for it. You just can't win without that data, without that air cover, without that network of support, without that field program that helps the states," Dhillon recently said in an interview on The Charlie Kirk Show. "You don't win a presidential election in a vacuum."
Charlie Kirk seems to agree with Dhillon's assessment, telling TAC by email that "we need to get better at data, we need to get better at lawfare, we need to harvest where legal, push early voting hard and deploy an army of vote capturers in what has become voting month."
"There's also the issue of the way RNC resources have been spent. Some of this is overblown, but there are serious questions that remain and voter and donor trust has been broken," Kirk adds. "Harmeet becoming chair will signal that there's a new sheriff in town, and inspire donors to give to the party again—and we very much need that. "
There are also other considerations that maintain the status quo at the RNC. Dhillon tells TAC that some members of the party have one question on their minds when considering a new chair: “What has the Chair done for me lately?” While Dhillon acknowledges the personal aspect of political reality, she argues, “That shouldn’t be their only consideration.”
“What matters more is the direction of the party. How are we as Republicans going to win elections within the current rules of the game so that we can use those victories to restore sanity to not only our election system but the country?” Dhillon asks.
She has a plan for that. Dhillon recently announced that she wants to make election operations a director level position at the Republican National Committee. “In the past, we’ve hired election workers seasonally in the lead up to election day,” Dhillon explains. “But we don't have election day anymore. We have 60 day elections in my home state of California, 40 day elections in other states like Pennsylvania, and election days that last a month in a number of other states. This needs to be something the RNC has a team working on all year round with professionals devoted to developing strategies, training and guiding state parties and the grassroots on how to win elections with current voting rules.” It’s true: The only way to change voting laws is to win first.
“We have comms, legal, data, digital, and yet we don’t have a director level position for the actual election process that determines who wins and who loses,” Dhillon says, sounding bewildered.
And "Republican voters are massively disappointed by losing," Kirk says. "We should have had a red wave and we didn't... Ronna is a nice person, she's always been kind and gracious to me personally, but the RNC isn't a personality contest. It's about winning. If a head football coach loses, he gets fired. It should be the same in politics."
Dhillon, who started her own law firm in 2006 based out of California’s Bay Area, also wants to beef up the RNC’s presence in court. Offensive litigation, in Dhillon’s mind, is not just about getting Republican voters’ priorities a day in court. She won her toe-to-toe showdown with Mark Elias, the infamous lawyer who took part in the subplot of the Russia hoax that was the Steele Dossier scandal and headed Democrats’ efforts to resist challenges to the 2020 presidential election. “The Democrats and Elias understand that they might lose lawsuits, but they bring them to keep Republicans tied up,” she says. When asked what a new RNC legal strategy might look like, Dhillon says, “I’m not going to reveal what our strategy will be. But under my leadership, the Republican National Committee will develop a deep bench of conservative lawyers who will return the favor to the Democrats.”
"Harmeet is smart, she's tough, she listens to the grassroots, and I think she has accurately identified what's wrong at the RNC and has a plan to fix it," Kirk says, before jumping into how Dhillon's legal background makes her the right woman for the moment. "Right now, many lawyers don't want to be associated with the RNC because it's not taken seriously," Kirk explains, adding that Dhillon's experience in lawfare can help fix that problem. "When the other side is ruthlessly recruiting the top lawyers in the country to change the way our nation fundamentally conducts its elections, often unconstitutionally, we need a top attorney with an aggressive team of our own to strike back, not just defensively, but offensively, to set right much of what's been broken in the past four to five years."
Bowyer used slightly different language in describing the need for a chair that understands lawfare:
We need our own Perkins Coie on the right. And we don't have that. And so a lot of that starts with the RNC. We need to have an operation where we're recruiting the most intelligent lawyers and giving them the most backup as we possibly can in order to go out and fight the toughest legal battles. There's not very many people in this country you could trust with that task. Harmeet Dhillon is maybe the only person. Why wouldn't you want that as your RNC Chair?
Dhillon says the conservative movement is replete with “talented, young, conservative legal minds,” all of whom want to contribute to securing conservative victories but are not currently attracted to working for the RNC because of its lack of interest in and infrastructure for pursuing litigation.
Her focus on a new legal strategy for the RNC mirrors her personal and career development. After spending a decade working at major international law firms in New York, London, and San Francisco, working for clients such as eBay and AT&T, Dhillon decided to step out on her own. In 2006, she started the Dhillon Law Firm, recruiting top talent from firms where conservative-minded legal professionals were discouraged, if not outright forbidden, from working on behalf of conservative causes or clients. More than a decade and a half later, Dhillon’s firm has represented Turning Point USA, Project Veritas, Life Action Network, numerous Republican candidates, Chaya Raichik, the once-anonymous owner of the Twitter account Libs of TikTok, as well as the RNC itself.
But Dhillon feels this work is meaningless if the party fails to have a vision for the future of the country that reclaims its former greatness. To confront the steep decline felt most acutely in heavily Republican areas across the country and the rampant disorder that plagues the nation’s metropoles takes more than a director of this or a lawsuit about that. “When we win, we have to deliver. Deliver for our voters and for the American people,” Dhillon says plainly. “The current chair doesn’t believe the RNC should be talking about the issues. She says she wants that to be left up to the candidates. But I do think we should be talking about the issues.” Just as elected representatives have a responsibility to do the work of their constituents, the Republican National Committee is tasked with working on behalf of Republican voters.
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Dhillon, who represents more than 5 million California Republicans as their RNC Committeewoman, feels this acutely, given her constituents have been rendered virtually powerless by the Golden State’s Democratic political machine. But Dhillon thinks that they, too, deserve a voice in how the party that proclaims to work on behalf of their values functions at the national level.
Dhillon remains completely confident in her bid, but fully understands it is her, not McDaniel, that has an uphill climb. “Whether it’s a president, or a Congressperson, or an RNC Chair, it’s difficult to unseat an incumbent,” Dhillon noted. “But ever since I declared my candidacy, she (McDaniel) has lost support, and I’ve gained support.”
To win, Dhillon will need to wed the aspirational—a conservative party that stands for strong, middle and working class families, traditional values and morals, and the concept of American liberty properly understood—with the practical—a Republican party that works transparently on behalf of its people and delivers victories in the courtroom and the ballot box. She seems to be doing just that as more and more Republicans are coming out publicly to say, “Hire Harmeet Dhillon.”