WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Committee on Thursday unanimously elected Ronna Romney McDaniel to serve as its chairman, tapping a woman to lead the national GOP.
The hand-picked choice of President-elect Donald Trump, McDaniel was elected by RNC members from across the nation who gathered in Washington on the eve of Trump's inauguration. McDaniel, a 43-year-old mother of two, is the niece of prominent Trump critic, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"I am a mom from Michigan," she said. "I am an outsider. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure Donald Trump and Republicans everywhere are successful."
McDaniel had previously served as chairman of the Michigan GOP, helping to deliver an unexpected victory in a state that proved critical to Trump's election. She also earned credit with Trump by supporting him despite pointed criticism from her famous uncle.
Massachusetts GOP chair Kirsten Hughes said McDaniel's election is part of "an honest effort" to improve the party's standing with women and minorities. Four years ago, the RNC released a post-election autopsy encouraging party leaders to "grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party" in addition to embracing a more welcoming and inclusive message.
McDaniel marks a break from the vast majority of Trump's Cabinet and his senior staff, who are white men.
"I think that those issues will continue to be a focus at the RNC," Hughes said of the party's outreach to women and minorities. "We'll have to see. Time will tell."
McDaniel takes over for outgoing chairman Reince Priebus, who led the RNC for six years and will serve as Trump's White House chief of staff.
"She is the right woman to lead the RNC," Priebus said in his final address to the RNC. "And it is time for a woman to lead the RNC."
McDaniel becomes the first female RNC leader in three decades.
With Trump himself serving as the face of the GOP, McDaniel is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role focused on fundraising and maintaining the nationwide data and field operation constructed under Preibus' leadership. She will serve alongside co-chair Bob Paduchik, who led the Trump campaign's efforts on the ground in Ohio last fall.
"For far too long, Democrats have hailed themselves as the party of women," McDaniel said. "As Republicans, we know their so-called monopoly on being the party of women is false, and it is a mindset I intend to change."
She added, "I am committed to working for a unified and inclusive Republican Party."