Home Illinois News Larry Smith and Rhonda Belford Were Key Votes in Saving Don Tracy’s...

Larry Smith and Rhonda Belford Were Key Votes in Saving Don Tracy’s Job During Saturday’s GOP Meeting, in Blow to the Grassroots

IL GOP chairman Don Tracy and Richard Irvin. (Photo credit: Illinois Review)

By Illinois Review

During Saturday’s Illinois Republican State Central Committee (SSC) meeting in Edwardsville, Larry Smith and Rhonda Belford were the deciding votes, during a Motion of No-Confidence, that saved Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy’s job – at least for now, in a blow to the grassroots movement that’s sweeping across the state.

The meeting, which was held at the Holiday Inn & Suites, was set up by Tracy to deliberately silence the voices of the grassroots during the public comment section of the meeting by limiting the number of conservative activists who could speak.

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.”

But sources confirmed to Illinois Review that once Tracy noticed that very few of the grassroots had showed up to the meeting on Saturday – a 5-hour drive from Chicago – he changed the rules to allow anyone to speak for two minutes.

During the December SSC meeting, the 200-plus grassroots activists who attended 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.

After the brief public comment section of the meeting concluded, a motion was made for the SSC to go into executive session – meaning the rest of the meeting would be done in secret and out of public view, to discuss the embattled IL GOP chair’s future – a move that frustrated the grassroots activists in attendance on Saturday.

Once in executive session, a Motion of No-Confidence was made, and votes were taken.

And sources confirm to Illinois Review that SSC members Larry Smith and Rhonda Belford were the deciding votes that secured Tracy’s job as chairman, at least for now – voting that they had “confidence” in his leadership in a direct blow to the grassroots constituency that they represent.

Smith represents the 14th Congressional District on the SSC – and he’s also, coincidentally, the chairman of Tracy’s newly-created Grassroots Committee, whose purpose is to “Actively listen to grassroots leaders and groups, identify ways to communicate with them in an ongoing manner, and jointly develop ways to work together to win elections.”

Smith is also a founder of YANA (You Are Not Alone), a local grassroots organization that gives a voice to every day concerned citizens. A voice to the voiceless.

And Tracy finds organizations like YANA abhorrent and detestable – his record and rhetoric as chairman proves it.

Belford represents the 12th Congressional District on the SSC, and serves as the co-chair of Tracy’s newly-created Grassroots Committee, alongside Smith. Belford also serves on Tracy’s newly-created 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.

The move, done in secret, sets the stage for Tracy and his committee to officially support candidates like IL GOP-favored candidate for governor Richard Irvin, the mayor of Aurora, who lost the primary election in June 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.

Make no mistake – Don 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 endorsement committee – which Belford is a member of, to officially support the candidates that he wants to support and who oppose the grassroots candidates.

By voting that they have confidence in Don Tracy’s leadership means that Smith and Beflord support the IL GOP mailing out a pro-choice mailer in support of their preferred candidate for DuPage County board chair – a direct violation of the Republican Party of Illinois Platform, and paid for by the Republican Party of Illinois.

By voting that they have confidence in Don Tracy’s leadership means that Smith and Beflord support the IL GOP mailing out 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 – paid for by the Republican Party of Illinois.

By voting that they have confidence in Don Tracy’s leadership means that Smith and Beflord support a man who ran in the Illinois primary for the 50th State Senate District as a Democrat, and whose family-owned business, Dot Foods – where he is an owner, donated to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

And revelations uncovered by Illinois Review show that on September 4, 2020 – just months before his election as chairman of the Republican Party of Illinois, Tracy made a personal donation to Citizens for Judge Emily Sutton – a Democrat running for Circuit Court Judge in the 9th Judicial Circuit.

Just prior to Tracy’s donation, Sutton received a boost from two influential Illinois Democrats – US Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL and US Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-IL, who at the time, was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And during the 2022 Illinois governor’s primary, several Republican state party officials under Tracy’s leadership endorsed Irvin’s campaign, despite Irvin pulling Democratic Primary ballots in 2014, 2016 and 2020.

Irvin also spent years praising Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker – referring to him as a “great friend and a great leader.”

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

But don’t worry about it – Smith and Belford have great confidence in Tracy’s leadership – and despite his disdain for the grassroots and his support of Democrats – they want to see him continue in his role as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.


  1. Don Tracy is even more of a lightweight goofball than I imagined. Also, a serial liar. Cathy and I got to meeting early to record SCC members as yes or no on restoring direct elections for the SCC (a surprisingly positive response actually, more on that later–there are some decent people who get in on the SCC). Anyway, Tracy was the first I ran into. Told him I had to drive out for the meeting since he won’t return my phone calls. Asked him the simple question if he was for or against giving Republicans back their vote in their state party. He pretended to know nothing about it. Said it was the first he was hearing about the idea. I knew that was a ridiculous lie for multiple reasons–not the least of which I’ve emailed and left him voicemails about it on his personal cell. But I quickly proved it by calling good friend Jaye DeBates on the phone. I knew that Jaye had a long conversation with Tracy about the reform in just the past couple of months. I put him on speaker and Jaye confirmed it all. Tracy listened and once caught red-handed in his blatant lie, tweaked his lie to say “I said I couldn’t RECALL hearing about it.” Then he scurried away with his lawyer John Fogarty in tow (Fogarty also was witness to the whole thing although I don’t expect him to back me up). Good grief, I mean come on people. Putting aside the gross incompetence, no serious person is ever going to respect or follow a weaselly little liar and proven loser like Don Tracy–or for that matter any GOP official who tries to prop-up such a useless chair. These selfish misfits are only guaranteeing more Democrat victories. And anyone who says we should all just shut up about the obvious reality is just as bad. Oh, that reminds me, one of the last things I told Tracy was that maybe if he would actually follow the REAL 10 Commandments, he wouldn’t always be having to shamelessly resort to the so-called “11th Commandment” in a desperate attempt to get people to shut up about his incompetence and unethical behavior. And btw, the idea that Ronald Reagan ever intended for his “11th Commandment” to be used to protect selfish, incompetent GOP officials is ludicrous and incredibly insulting to the Gipper. Tracy deserves to be ousted just on that basis alone. Of course there are many reasons that stand on their own. And just to be clear, Ronald Reagan ran against a SITTING REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT! For crying out loud, does Tracy really think Reagan never had to take Ford to task in that effort with things that might be considered “negative”? Of course in his defense, Tracy doesn’t strike me as real bright. He might not be educated on even this basic history, even though he was certainly of majority age by then. Anyway, bottom line, every day that a useless chair like Don Tracy is allowed to sit around on his title playing pretend is another day we lose ground to the Democrats. — doug.ibendahl@mail.com

  2. I wonder if Doug Ibendahl & Co are recruiting grassroots activists to not only run for Republican precinct committeepersons across the state (and Chicago ward committeepersons in the city of Chicago), but to attend the Illinois Republican state convention next year?

    As discussed previously in comments, the good thing about the current election of state central committeepersons, who won’t be up until 2026, is the requirement candidates for Republican state central committeepersons can be screened prior to election, and must have voted in the most recent 3 General Primary Elections by casting a Republican ballot in the same local election authority jurisdiction.

    Until Ibendahl will also support the direct election of County Republican Party chairs outside of Cook County, the direct election of SCC members will not help.

  3. Lopez, your comment makes absolutely no sense. County gop organizations are completely different, stand alone political organizations, separate by law from the state party. Republican primary voters already directly elect their representative on the county party’s central committee. That’s the whole point. Republicans should also be able to directly their representative on the state party’s central committee. That’s how a real board of directors works. Stakeholders elect the board members who then pick their chairperson. No idea what u are talking about re directly electing a chair. I know of no organization in any business that functions like that. But directly electing the representatives on the managing committee, THAT is the norm. It’s how the Dems still do it and how the IL GOP did it until Republican voters were disenfranchised in the mid 1980s. And save your crocodile tear nonsense about your fear of Dems getting on the state central. Half of the state central members picked under our current screwy system ENDORSED a hard core Democrat for the state’s top office last year (Richard Irvin). As far as recruiting, no one has recruited more good people than I have over the years. Problem is many go to their first state party mtg and see how dysfunctional and unprofessional it is, and they say, why bother. You must be a newbie, or maybe just looking for attention. In any case, u really need to do some basic homework before embarrassing yourself more. Obvious u are clueless.

  4. “Clueless” eh Doug Ibendahl? “You must be a newbie, or maybe just looking for attention. In any case, u really need to do some basic homework before embarrassing yourself more. Obvious u are clueless.”

    Borrowing a phrase from Florida Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna, I’m going to refresh your memory, and then we’ll see who’s really clueless and projecting their decades-long record of failure in Republican politics on me (and failing miserably at projection).

    I’ve been listening to your rhetoric for decades and see no progress. None.

    I keep hearing talk about the “grassroots”. Last I checked, Larry Smith was hailed as a grassroots champion when he emerged as the 14th District state central committeeperson last summer when Laura Pollastrini was redistricted to the 11th District and to my surprise, Jim Marter did not run in the 14th. Look what happened to Smith.

    Illinois conservative Republicans over the past 3 decades have yearned to be like Texas and their Republican Party. Texas Republican primary voters have direct-election of their county Republican chairpersons, complete with a primary runoff if the top votegetter doesn’t achieve 50%+1. And yes, Texas Republicans elect precinct committeepersons, too (they’re called “precinct chairs”). You might want to research how Texas Republicans elect their equivalent of state central committeepersons from their 31 state senate districts.

    Many reasons why Don Tracy continues to be state Republican chair today, and the ineptness of the self-described grassroots is biggest reason. I remember when you used to rail against the “white shirts” from the 2008 Republican state convention, but never produced proof these thugs actually existed.

    As for Richard Irvin, it was I, along with many real grassroots conservatives who exposed him for what he was beyond his Democratic voting record, including a womanizer (and Irvin’s 2017 GC provided all the evidence/receipts) and how Irvin worked with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood to try to reverse the Trump tax cuts in 2019 (again, I showed receipts).

    The focus of real grassroots conservatives, if any are actually left in Illinois who aren’t grifting for the next radio-show/podcast/consulting gig, should be on the county Republican organizations, which is the only place grassroots conservatives will have any real influence in the March primary, plus ensuring all will be delegates and alternate delegates to the state Republican convention next year.

  5. Yawn. Lopez, so u can’t even admit your first post was nonsense. When called out and exposed, your response is to post more gibberish, more nonsense, more lies that I can’t even make sense of. If u don’t think Republicans should have a vote in their own state party, that’s fine. But frankly I don’t even know why you’re even pretending to dick around with Republican politics if u have such a problem with Republicans voting. I really have no time for u dude. I think u need some help. I’ll keep u in my prayers though.

  6. I agree with everything that Doug said. If Chairman Tracy doesn’t support direct elections of the SCC, that’s a reason to fire Tracy, along with the facts that he donated to Biden and that he wants to endorse candidates before the primaries.

  7. What a pathetic sack of ____ Doug you are.

    You wonder why grassroots conservatives keep failing in Illinois? Look in the mirror, Ibendahl, look in the mirror and see the reason for failures — yourself.

    You can yawn all you want, it doesn’t make you right. Direct elections of SCC members has been talked about for 20 years, after it was eliminated in the 1980s. No closer today, and the so-called grassroots leaders wimp out from a real fight.

    Tough talk from a safe distances sheltered behind your keyboard proves only how pathetic you’ve always been, Doug. You beat guys like Don Tracy with courage, not cowardice, and not running your mouth but with real, effective action.

    If Doug Ibendahl is half the man he claims, he would prove me wrong, and TAKE the power at the next state convention to return the Republican Party to direct elections of state central committeepersons in the 2026 primary election.

    Because as the old saying goes, power is not given, power is TAKEN, just as it was in the 1980s.

    Prove me wrong, Doug, prove me wrong.

  8. Lopez, I have no idea who u are. Never heard of you (if you’re using your real name). And you certainly don’t know me. I only spend my valuable time with serious people who truly want to advance the ball, not frustrated/jealous old nobodies. You clearly have some serious issues. I urge you to get some help. And as I said before, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    And not that I need to explain myself to the likes of you, but you’re way off base on yet something else. Next year’s state convention is too late. By that point we’re only a few months away from yet another huge election disaster in Illinois. I’m pushing for calling of a special state convention THIS year. I explained back in December:

    Do This Illinois GOP, Or Just Shut It Down

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