By Illinois Review
Over a hundred grassroots activist representing over twenty organizations throughout northern Illinois – who gathered at a Mexican restaurant in North Aurora on Wednesday evening, were surprised when IL GOP Grassroots Committee co-chair Larry Smith walked in the door, where he spent the rest of the evening defending embattled IL GOP chair Don Tracy – even offending the room by telling several attendees that “I won’t work with this group,” in another slam to the constituency he’s supposed to be representing.
The host of the event, Terry Newsome, shared with Smith earlier in the week that he was uninvited after listening to his interview on Saturday with Black and Right Radio host John Anthony, where he referred to the grassroots base of the party as “keyboard warriors that never built anything in their life,” setting off a firestorm of negative comments on social media from grassroots activists who had tuned in hoping the grassroots committee co-chair would defend the conservative-base of the party – the base he’s supposed to be representing.
“So long as Larry continues to support the anti-grassroots IL GOP chairman Don Tracy, we don’t want to hear from him,” said Newsome earlier in the day, in a conversation with Illinois Review.
But Smith ignored Newsome and decided to show up anyway.
But after seeing Smith, many in the room were initially hopeful that he’d offer an apology for his vote in support of Tracy during the last state central committee meeting, and that he’d take the opportunity to address the room and offer his commitment to represent the interests of the grassroots – his constituency – with his fellow IL GOP leaders.
Instead, Smith used his 90-seconds – the same amount of time that Tracy allowed the grassroots to speak during the December state central committee meeting in Bolingbrook, to rattle off his resume and professional accomplishments, and then deny that he referred to the grassroots as “keyboard warriors,” despite a live Facebook feed that recorded his interview in real time.
When Smith’s 90-seconds were up, he complained that he was denied a full 90-seconds to speak, despite an attendee in the first row holding up his phone that displayed a stopwatch indicating that his time was in fact, up.
And throughout the event, Smith continued to complain to Newsome – the MC for the evening, about his 90-seconds, as other invited speakers were given 5-10 minutes to address the crowd of conservative grassroots activists.
After the event, Smith mingled with the anti-Don Tracy crowd – on a mission to defend the embattled chairman.
In several conversations, Smith repeatedly shared his displeasure with being uninvited, even going so far as to say that he didn’t need this group of over 100 grassroots activists who represent over 20 different organizations across northern Illinois, saying he’ll work with other grassroots organizations instead.
In other words, Smith will only work with groups that are supportive of Tracy.
During one of the speeches, IR editor-in-chief and Chicago radio show host Mark Vargas took a poll and asked the crowd who supports Don Tracy?
Vargas then asked who opposes Don Tracy, and the room of over 100 activists went wild.
The vote was unanimous.
But that didn’t stop Smith, who was in the room when the informal poll was taken, from walking around and defending Tracy – a move that made him look out of touch and tone deaf.
In other conversations, Smith repeatedly said that he was looking for the grassroots – despite being surrounded by over 100 of them all evening long.
“I’m looking for the grassroots and I can’t find them,” was a comment that Smith made to Ken, a conservative grassroots activist who had a brief conversation with the grassroots committee co-chair.
In a conversation with Illinois Review afterwards, Ken found the comments bizarre, considering Smith was standing in a room full of the grassroots.
It’s the equivalent of sitting in the United Center during a Chicago Bulls game and telling the person sitting next to you who is dressed in a Benny the Bull costume that you are trying to find a Bulls fan.
But the key takeaway from the evening was clear – Tracy should be removed as chair of the IL GOP and Smith should be removed as co-chair of the grassroots committee.
Smith had his chance to do damage control with the grassroots – and many on Wednesday evening were hopeful – even giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Instead, he offended the room and said he didn’t need them.