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Don Tracy and the IL GOP Turn the Ari Fleischer Luncheon into a Richard Irvin Campaign Reunion, With Irvin Eying a US Senate Run



By Illinois Review

In what seemed like a Richard Irvin for governor campaign reunion, IL GOP chairman Don Tracy and the IL GOP finance committee welcomed former President George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer for a fundraising event on Tuesday in downtown Chicago.

The host committee included Tracy, Brian Kasal, Lynn O’Brien, Vince Kolber, Richard Porter and Kathy Salvi – but the surprise guest in the room was none other than failed Republican gubernatorial candidate and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin – the preferred candidate of the IL GOP during the Republican primary.

The invitation for the IL GOP fundraiser in Chicago.

Kasal, O’Brien and Porter endorsed Irvin during the primary, with Porter serving as the honorary co-chairman of the campaign. And although Salvi didn’t endorse Irvin, she did receive his endorsement in August during her campaign for US Senate, writing,

“I am honored to receive Mayor Irvin’s endorsement. Mayor Irvin has lived the American Dream, but stories like Mayor Irvin’s are becoming rarer and rarer in Joe Biden’s and Tammy Duckworth’s Illinois.”

Irvin was equally impressed with Salvi, issuing a similar statement at the time that said,

“I am proud to endorse Kathy Salvi for United States Senate. Illinois needs a senator who will prioritize Illinois families and businesses every day. Kathy Salvi has been an advocate for women and children in the greater Chicago area for more than three decades, and she will be a champion for all Illinoisans as our next United States Senator.”

And although Tracy didn’t endorse any of the candidates for governor during the 2022 primary, his donation record in support of candidates aligned with Richard Irvin are telling.

-Commissioner Sean Morrison, co-chairman of the Irvin campaign
-State Rep. Tom Demmer, treasure candidate and a member of the Irvin campaign’s slate of candidates
-Shannon Teresi, comptroller candidate and a member of the Irvin campaign’s slate of candidates
-Jim Zay, DuPage County board member who endorsed Irvin for governor
-State Rep. Tim Ozinga, who endorsed Irvin for governor
-State Rep. Tim Butler, who endorsed Irvin for governor
-State Rep. Jim Durkin, who endorsed Irvin for governor

And what’s missing? Tracy’s personal contributions to conservative grassroots candidates.

Last January, when word began to spread about Irvin’s potential candidacy, Tracy confirmed to reporter Mark Maxwell that he was in fact jumping into the race, saying that he would announce his candidacy for governor on Martin Luther King Day.

Tracy told Maxwell that Irvin is “definitely a Republican,” and that he pulled Democratic primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020 because “that’s where the action is,” in Chicago – even though Irvin is a mayor in Aurora, more than an hour west of Chicago.

Illinois Review can’t recall a time when Tracy spoke to the press and offered a preview of any other candidate announcing their campaign for governor. A review of press articles reveals that Irvin was the only one.

Prior to running for governor, Irvin spent years praising Democrat Gov. JB Pritzker, referring to him as a, “great friend and a great leader.”

And in 2020, Irvin spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally yelling, “I can’t breathe!”

In exclusive audio obtained by Illinois Review, Tracy admitted during a July meeting with conservative leaders that the Irvin campaign for governor was allowed to use the IL GOP postage discount for mailers – a perk not afforded to other candidates for governor during the primary.

Tracy acknowledges use of the postage discount in the recording, but says the IL GOP was taking its “direction from the House Caucus and the Senate Caucus.”

And despite Tracy repeatedly saying that the IL GOP remained “neutral” during the primary, nearly half of the Republican State Central Committee – the governing board of the IL GOP, endorsed Irvin, including national committeeman Richard Porter.

And John Fogarty, the general counsel of the IL GOP simultaneously served as the attorney representing Richard Irvin and his campaign for governor – taking compensation from both the IL GOP and the Irvin campaign at the same time.

And in September, Illinois Review learned that Tracy personally appointed former state central committee member Nimish Jani, who endorsed Irvin for governor, to the IL GOP Executive Committee.

In June, it was revealed that Jani was the one responsible for bussing Indian-American senior citizens to the Lake County Republican straw poll to rig the poll in favor of his candidate Richard Irvin. The senior citizens, escorted by staff wearing Irvin-Bourne tee shirts, arrived at the meeting with pre-filled ballots.

Irvin would win the straw poll with 144 votes. The grassroots conservative candidate Darren Bailey would come in second place with 76 votes.

In a document shared exclusively with Illinois Review – in addition to existing state central committee members, Tracy named a few other individuals to the IL GOP Executive Committee besides Jani.

Jim Zay, DuPage County board member who endorsed Irvin for governor
Brad Mills, Sagamon County Administrator who endorsed Irvin for governor

Irvin and the IL GOP would lose the primary to conservative grassroots candidate and former State Senator Darren Bailey, who would beat Irvin by a stunning 43 points.

Word is spreading within IL GOP circles that Irvin is eying a US Senate bid in 2026 against Democratic US Sen. Dick Durbin – and so it explains why he would show up at Tuesday’s luncheon.

And with billionaire Ken Griffin, who funded Irvin’s campaign and lined his account with $50 million, upset at the results, it’s no wonder Irvin is in a room full of donors – he’s going to need them after embarrassing Griffin and driving him to relocate to Miami.

Perhaps next time the IL GOP will host a fundraiser for Irvin – they are certainly experts at blowing money and elections.


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  1. Richard Irvin may run for U.S. Senate in 2026?

    As what? A Republican or a Democrat?

    First, it’s doubtful Senator Dick Durbin will seek reelection to a 6th term in the U.S. Senate. Durbin turns 82 just after the Nov 2024 election, and given how Durbin and Governor JB Pritzker have a behind-the-scenes feud between each other which Pritzker won last year with his candidate winning the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Durbin’s days are numbered.

    Most are preparing for 2026 to be an open U.S. Senate seat election in Illinois, which could produce a Democratic primary with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D, IL-08), who reported over $11 million cash-on-hand at the end of 2022. Krishnamoorthi is a prolific fundraiser, and his cash-on-hand will only grow by millions of dollars before a primary in 2026 for U.S. Senate.

    Many believed Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D, IL-14) could be a U.S. Senate candidate in 2026, but her elevation inside U.S. House Democratic policy leadership may indicate Underwood may try to advance in House seniority instead of a showdown against her well-funded Democratic colleague Krishnamoorthi.

    An Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2026 is problematic at best. As Irvin’s general consultant for his successful 2017 initial mayoral election said after Irvin’s 3rd place finish in last June’s gubernatorial primary, Irvin WILL face a major challenger for reelection as Aurora mayor in 2025, assuming he seeks a 3rd term. Whom that challenger(s) will be is unknown, but Irvin will not cruise to reelection, and his presence at the IL GOP fundraiser may be more to begin fundraising for 2025, not 2026.

    While much of the points in the article are rehashes, and still miss the fact Irvin’s Lake County straw poll win did not result in the endorsement from the Lake County Republican Executive Committee last year (Jesse Sullivan was endorsed by Lake GOP EC a week after the straw poll), anyone who read my articles on Irvin from nearly a year ago documenting Irvin’s known womanizing, fathering illegitimate children, and working with Congresswoman Underwood to repeal a major portion of the Trump tax cuts in 2019, know those facts will NOT go away, especially in a statewide Republican primary in 2026.

    That’s all part of Irvin’s record, and as in any election, the good, bad and ugly must come out during the course of a campaign.

    Grassroots conservatives would do better to plan 2026 campaigns for IL Republican state central committee, including recruiting precinct committeeperson candidates (ward/township committeepersons in Cook County) in order to guide state Republican politics going into the 2026 general election and beyond.

  2. It is disturbing that in 2023, Republican gatherings must be conducted in secret. Those wishing to attend must be contacted privately once they RSVP so as to prevent Antifa and BLM progressives from disrupting the events.

    These are dark times with Pritzker declaring what “Illinois values” are and the FBI targeting religious conservatives.