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.
By Illinois Review