By Illinois Review
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy caught some of his fellow state central committee (SSC) members off guard this week when several of them received an email naming them to the new Endorsement Policy Committee, which Tracy will chair – paving the way for the chairman and the state party to officially endorse their preferred candidates in primary elections, in an apparent dig at the grassroots-base of the party.
In January, Tracy floated this idea during an interview with Bishop on Air, and blamed the top of the ticket for the midterm election losses this past November – saying that the IL GOP needs to re-evaluate their primary election neutrality policy moving forward.
“And a lot of these great candidates we had this past time put their heart and soul and their family treasure into these races only to be impacted by the top of the ticket, something they have no control over…So I think we almost have a fiduciary duty to look at our primary and determine whether neutrality is the best policy.”
And while Tracy may think it’s good policy for the state party to meddle in primary races, multiple sources have confirmed to Illinois Review that not everyone on this new committee he’s chairing supports the idea.
And they have good reason to oppose it – after all, during the last primary election, IL GOP-favored candidate for governor Richard Irvin, the mayor of Aurora, lost by a shocking 43 points, despite $50 million coming in from billionaire Ken Griffin to prop up the mayor’s failed gubernatorial campaign.
Irvin also received the support and endorsements from many senior IL GOP officials, including nearly half of the then-SSC – whose members serve as the governing board of the IL GOP.
But none of that helped, or moved him any closer to a victory.
The real winners in the Irvin campaign? The paid political consultants and vendors.
But make no mistake – Tracy despises the grassroots – and he views the conservative base of the party as “steerage” or third-class citizens, to borrow an analogy from the blockbuster hit movie, the Titanic.
And it’s why he’s created this new committee to officially prop up the candidates that he wants to support and who oppose grassroot candidates.
In Tracy’s mind – if you’re a major donor to IL GOP efforts, then you deserve a seat next to him in his first-class cabin with views of the ocean – dining on foie gras, raw oysters, waldorf pudding and sipping on fine wine.
But if you’re a member of the grassroots – you can take your seat in the “steerage” below deck with views of the engine and boiler rooms, dining on vegetable stew and stale biscuits.
But while the grassroots cannot compete with Tracy and top IL GOP donors dollar for dollar, they vastly outnumber the establishment, and they are the hardest workers in politics. They’ll make thousands of phone calls, drop off signs and knock on doors – rain or shine – in the summertime and wintertime.
They cannot be stopped.
All the political connections and money in the world couldn’t save Richard Irvin’s campaign – and much to the frustration of Tracy, the grassroots proved to be unbeatable during the primary election cycle.
Just imagine for a moment, how negative races will become if Tracy and the state party are allowed to intervene and pick sides during primaries.
This last primary election cycle, we saw the state party endorse vicious mailers that unfairly attacked grassroots candidates – even mailing pieces with photoshopped pictures of grassroot candidates alongside Gov. JB Pritzker to deliberately deceive Republican primary voters into thinking that these “so-called” Republicans are personal friends with the Democratic governor.
“He’s not a Republican. He’s not one of us,” was a popular tagline in hit pieces that Tracy’s allies used to target grassroots candidates.
In another mailer, Tracy and the state party violated the Republican Party of Illinois Platform by paying for, and mailing out a pro-choice mailer in support of their preferred candidate for DuPage County board chair.
Without a platform – there isn’t a party.
And where was Tracy? He was silent.
During the December SSC meeting, the grassroots were only given 90-seconds to speak during public comments – and many drove hours just for their voices to be heard. But if you were a friend and ally of Tracy, you could speak beyond the allotted time.
And the SSC meeting this Saturday is no different – and Tracy continues to try and silence the voices of the grassroots during the public comment section of the meeting.
In an email obtained by Illinois Review, Tracy’s executive director and top aide sent out an email to SSC members with the following message, copying Tracy:
“For public comments, it will be invitation only at the direction of SCC members. SCC members are allowed to invite one speaker. Public commentators must register with me by 6PM the day before the meeting – Friday, May 12, 2023.”
Since his election as chair of the IL GOP in 2021, Tracy has overseen humiliating defeats that prompted both Republican House and Senate leaders to resign after November’s election losses.
Democrats control every statewide office, and they grew their supermajority control in both the Illinois House and Senate chambers.
And in April, the Democrats’ winning streak continued – as they won an overwhelming majority of local races and school board elections as their domination of the state continues year after year, election after election – leaving Republicans voiceless and irrelevant on local and state matters.
Multiple Republican leaders have shared with Illinois Review privately that Tracy’s weak leadership and the continuation of GOP losses have had a serious impact on their ability to raise money for the state party.
And while Tracy brags about the measly $2.2 million they raised over the last two years, not one penny was spent in support of conservative grassroot candidates.
During that same time frame, the Indiana GOP raised $10 million – proving that competent leadership and a solid plan to incorporate the grassroots is critical to raising money and winning elections.
The last time the IL GOP tried to tell us which candidate to support during the primary, that campaign went down in flames.
Perhaps Tracy will never learn this lesson – and it’s one of many reasons why it’s time for him to go.
Tracy can learn from the grassroots. Third class citizens they are not – the future of the party, they are.