The decision by Steve Wynn to resign as finance chair for the Republican National Committee, following allegations of sexual misconduct over decades, cast a pall over the committee’s annual winter meeting, which convened Wednesday evening in Washington.
As committee members met privately Thursday morning, many were still coming to terms with Wynn’s departure, and Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel turned sentimental as she reflected on the episode, according to two people who were in the room.
McDaniel started to get emotional and teared up, the sources said, saying Wynn was “like family.” But she also emphasized that the allegations were serious, and that the committee had acted swiftly and decisively.
“It was a real somber moment,” one committee member added. The committee members spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity because the meeting was intended to be off the record.
A spokesperson for McDaniel declined to comment.
In public, the committee has also sought to look forward, with an announcement Wednesday that Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts would take over as finance chair. McDaniel reported to committee members Thursday that Ricketts has already begun raising money in his new role.
Ricketts’ selection comes as the RNC has enjoyed a streak of positive fundraising news. The committee told its members Thursday that they raked in $1.6 million online during the President’s State of the Union address. On Wednesday, the committee reported having raised $132.5 million in 2017 – more than doubling the fundraising for the year by the Democratic National Committee.
But their meeting this week also follows a roller coaster few months for the RNC: including the committee’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Alabama US Senate race, before reversing and backing Republican Roy Moore at the eleventh hour; and the allegations against Wynn, which quickly culminated in his resignation last week.
The Alabama race also featured in the discussion among members Thursday morning, with the state’s three representatives at the meeting defending the committee’s decision to re-engage. Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan praised McDaniel for “supporting their decisions throughout the whole process during some very difficult times,” said one of the committee members who was in the room.
The meeting kicked off Wednesday evening with remarks by Newt Gingrich, and continued Thursday with an address by Vice President Mike Pence. President Donald Trump is slated to speak to the committee Thursday evening at his eponymous Washington hotel.