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Matt Dixon

Florida GOP may formally back ousting RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel

Ronna McDaniel has so far maintained support from dozens of RNC members, despite a barrage of negative messaging from leading conservative figures. | Laurence Kesterson/AP Photo
UPDATED: 22 DEC 2022 10:20 AM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Republican Party of Florida may vote on whether to support throwing out Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who has come under heavy criticism from conservatives after a disappointing 2022 midterm showing.

Former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, the newly-elected chair of the Lake County Republican Party, secured enough signatures from party officials to call a special meeting to decide whether McDaniel should be terminated as RNC chair.

“Ronna McDaniel failed in her position as RNC Chair in the 2022 election cycle and has yielded extremely unimpressive election results for the GOP in the last 3 election cycles,” read the petition for a special meeting.

Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters is now obligated to at least call a special meeting because 30 members of the executive committee signed onto the petition. It does not guarantee a vote would be taken. Gruters on Wednesday endorsed McDaniel in a letter to party officials, calling her a “successful RNC Chair & the party would be well served by her continued leadership.”

He did not return a request seeking comment about Sabatini’s petition for a special meeting.

Sabatini, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, served in the state House and lost his bid this year for Florida's 7th Congressional District.

Republicans secured a much narrower majority in the House than expected during the midterms, and the party lost a seat in the Senate and failed to take back the chamber even as the Biden administration struggled to control record-high inflation. Since then, there has been a chorus of jeers from those on the party’s conservative flank calling for a new RNC chair. Conservatives have mounted a fierce lobbying effort since Election Day to persuade RNC committee members to support McDaniel’s top opponent, Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committee member from California. Dhillon is an election law attorney who has represented Trump.

The RNC’s leadership election is scheduled for Jan. 27.

Trump has remained neutral in the RNC leadership contest, but some of his top advisers, including Susie Wiles, support McDaniel serving for another two-year term. Wiles, who was Florida director for both of Trump’s presidential campaigns, told the Associated Press that leaked RNC financial information that painted the party as wasting donor cash, did “not paint a complete picture.” Wiles declined comment for this story.

Among the biggest names who signed onto Sabatini’s push for a special meeting is Rep. Matt Gaetz, a panhandle Republican and one of Trump’s biggest congressional allies.

“Look what we’ve got from Ronna McDaniel?” Gaetz said last weekend at Turning Point USA’s Americafest 2022 conference in Arizona. “Someone who probably spent more of their time promoting their own podcast.”

The fight comes amid the backdrop of the Republican Party of Florida facing its own leadership fight, as Gruters is stepping down to run for RNC treasurer.

The race to replace him includes Leon County GOP chair Evan Power, who signed Sabatini’s petition, versus Christian Ziegler, the party’s current vice chair who did not sign the petition and did not return a request seeking comment.

“Having talked with hundreds of GOP Committee members and activists around the state, it is clear that our grassroots wants change at the RNC,” Power said. “They are tired of running up wins in Florida only to have the losses continue in other places preventing national conservative leadership.”

Sabatini said he started whipping party votes on McDaniel on Tuesday, and said he directly spoke to Ziegler, who would not sign onto the effort. Ziegler did not return a request seeking comment.

Sabatini said that he started his petition for a special meeting because the party’s grassroot members have clearly turned on McDaniel and he had no intention of creating any additional tension in the state party chair’s race. There had been rumors that when he became a county-level GOP chair earlier this month, he would run for statewide chair. But he has said he is happy with Power and Ziegler so far, and does not have plans to run.

“What I want is to make sure that whomever the chair is, that they keep moving the party to the right and embracing fights instead of being pussies,” Sabatini said. “We need to embrace the Texas model, which is a totally grassroots-driven party.”

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this report misstated which chamber Anthony Sabatini served in. Sabatini served in the state House.

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