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Don Tracy Disses Grassroots, Now He’s Using Them as Bait to Attract Donors to Fund “Conservative Vision,” Despite Supporting Pro-Choice, Pro Obama Candidates During 2022 Election

(Dreamstime/Newsmax illustration)

By Illinois Review

On May 20th, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy spoke to a group of Republicans in Lake County where he publicly slammed his favorite target: the grassroots.

As a caller pointed out during a segment on Black and Right Radio – and who was at the event with Tracy earlier in the day, they recalled Tracy’s speech, saying,

“..he [Tracy] brought up the fact that everybody’s pointing at him, but he goes, ‘Where are the grassroots? We don’t need people sitting in their chairs’…but it’s people [grassroots] that just bi**h and moan constantly about how bad things are and are not election judges, are not walking doors for candidates and not supporting people…”

IL GOP Chair Don Tracy slams the grassroots during a speech in Lake County on May 20, 2023.

In early May, Tracy caught some of his fellow state central committee (SSC) members off guard 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 – a grassroots candidate, for the midterm election losses in November – saying that the IL GOP needs to re-evaluate their primary election neutrality policy moving forward.

IL GOP Chair Don Tracy, during a live radio interview blames the “top of the ticket” — the grassroots candidate, for the midterm election losses in 2022.

During the school board elections in April, Tracy and the IL GOP abandoned the grassroots base of the party – choosing instead to sit on the sidelines while Gov. JB Pritzker and the Democratic Party of Illinois spent $800,000 to support their far-left candidates and to viciously attack the conservative ones.

And where was Tracy? He was silent.

Tracy and the IL GOP even secretly supported a slate of anti-grassroots candidates during the April elections – approving mailers and allowing the other candidates to use the IL GOP postage discount to level attacks against the conservative slate – a perk unavailable to the grassroots candidates.

And the advisor to the anti-grassroots slate of candidates? John Fogarty – Tracy’s chief legal advisor and the general counsel to the Illinois Republican Party.

But on late Wednesday evening, Tracy sent out a fundraising email, invoking the grassroots and using the conservative base of the party as bait – urging donors to “please consider sending a donation…before midnight tonight.”

“Ever since I became Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, I’ve seen the tremendous impact that grassroots leadership and activism can have on elections…2023 has been a testament to the power that ordinary people can have in shaping their government, and it makes me optimistic for the future of our party and our conservative vision for Illinois.”

IL GOP Chair Don Tracy’s email, using the grassroots as bait, to try and solicit donors who can help support the IL GOP’s “conservative vision for Illinois.”

A conservative vision?

In October, Don Tracy and IL GOP leaders endorsed pro-choice, pro-same sex marriage, pro-transgender rights candidates who voted for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

And during that same month, Tracy and the IL GOP paid for a pro-choice mailer in support of anti-Trump Republican Greg Hart, who was running for DuPage County Board Chair.

Just the other day, Hart – a close friend and ally of Tracy, sent out a tweet calling President Donald Trump – the national leader of the grassroots movement, “not fit to be President.”

In the email, Tracy continues,

“We put such a huge emphasis on Congress and the White House that we sometimes forget about our local offices. Our city councils, judicial seats, school boards…matter just as much, and we intend to make inroads there!”

IL GOP Chair Don Tracy’s email, using the grassroots as bait, to try and solicit donors.

But too little, too late – and Illinois Review has reviewed emails sent to Tracy asking for the IL GOP to help during the school board election this past April. And what was Tracy’s response?


Tracy ignored the pleas for help from the grassroots – and now he wants to use them as bait to raise money.

The Illinois Republican Party website even highlights the party’s “commitment to our core ideals” – and that includes “The Right to Life.”

The IL GOP website lists the party’s commitment to support core ideals like “The Right to Life,” despite supporting pro-choice candidates last Fall. (Source: Illinois.GOP)

But it’s difficult for donors to fund Tracy’s conservative vision, when Tracy and the IL GOP continue to support candidates whose pro-choice, pro-same sex marriage, pro-transgender rights policies violate the party platform.

But what do you expect from a chairman who once ran as a Democrat, donates to Democrats and continues to support Democratic candidates?



    While I’m old enough and have been active in grassroots politics in Illinois during my adult life over the past 3 decades, I recall the heyday of Illinois Review going back to when it was known as Illinois Leader in 2005. With the new ownership of Scott Kaspar and Editor-in-Chief Mark A. Vargas, it was hoped Illinois Review would expand the conservative footprint and lead the way for social conseratism to be mainstream among the Illinois electorate again.

    This June 1st article continues a trend I hope the ownership of Illinois Review will thoughtfully reverse to improve its coverage.


    This article goes back to the email from early May announcing a new committee of the Illinois Republican state central committee (SCC) called “Endorsement Policy Committee” and rehashing Illinois Review stances, replayed the January 2023 WMAY video with Chairman Tracy.

    Missing is the fact Chairman Tracy issued a press release on May 22nd abandoning changes to endorsement policy going into the 2026 election cycle, the next time a statewide office will be up for election in Illinois:

    “Several months ago, I appointed an ‘Endorsement Policy Committee’ to review our current policy of not endorsing in statewide primaries and compare how that is handled in other states including Virginia. That Committee has never met. And, a majority of the State Central Committee appear not to support reviewing that policy at this time. Therefore, our current policy of not endorsing in statewide primaries will continue for the foreseeable future.”

    While I don’t know about the “several months ago” reference, Tracy has been vocal that any potential changes have been abandoned, and Illinois Review has failed to report this important detail.

    I don’t put it past Tracy to rewrite history, but something else wrong with Tracy’s statement is the reference to Virginia, which many Republican leaders look to as an example of how Republicans reversed fortune with the election of Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) in 2021. Virginia is not a good example, given Virginia Republicans did not use a primary election to nominate Youngkin in 2021. A virtual state convention was used for the nomination process, complete with ranked-choice voting, and matched how Virginia Republicans nominated candidates in the 2020 election cycle.

    While Youngkin led the ballot returns from the 1st ballot all the way to the final ballot, the fact Virginia didn’t use an open primary election like Illinois makes that model suspect to try to adopt in Illinois, in spite of the positive result of Republicans flipping the governor’s mansion in 2021 in a state where the governor is term-limited to a single 4-year term.


    Another tape Illinois Review likes to replay is the state party’s mailer for Greg Hart’s campaign from last fall’s open seat race for DuPage County Board chairman.

    As I said in a comment to a previous article, Republican nominee Hart flip-flopped to pro-choice after his nearly 60% of the primary vote win last June. What I did not state correctly was the timing of Hart’s flip-flop, which did not take place just after the Republican primary win in late June, but in late September when Hart’s abortion flip-flop became widely known.

    The first published article documenting Hart’s flip-flop that I could find was by Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins, in an article published in Illinois Family Action on October 3 titled “With GOP Leaders Like Greg Hart, Babies & Families Don’t Need Enemies”, after a Hart campaign mailer in late September, paid for by the Illinois Republican Party, brought up Hart’s moderation.

    Like Illinois Review pointed out again, the Illinois Republican Party paid for the September mailing which included this quote from Greg Hart’s wife:

    “My husband is a different kind of candidate. He’s a moderate who will reject political extremes. As DuPage County Chair, Greg will always protect women’s rights and never restrict our right to choose. (emphasis Hart’s)”

    But even though my previous comment had the timing of Hart’s flip-flop off by 2-3 months, it definitely happened after the primary. Like most real social conservatives, I didn’t like it, but the Illinois Republican Party paying for the most high-profile countywide race in the Chicago suburbs, in spite of the nominee’s position on Life, did not break any By-laws or other rules of the Party. Hart should have been held accountable by DuPage County Republican leaders like Chairman Jim Zay, and maybe that happened. Fact is, Hart was the Republican nominee who had won a contested primary fair-and-square, but flip-flopped nearly 3 months after the primary.

    While Hart was alone flip-flopping from pro-life to pro-choice after winning their primary, Hart was not the only candidate who tried to downplay, or even remove, their stance on abortion. Catalina Lauf, the 11th Congressional District nominee, stripped her website of her pro-life position just after Labor Day, as well as her position on the Second Amendment. On abortion, in a WGN-TV extended interview on a mid-October Sunday morning, Lauf opposed Senator Lindsey Graham’s national abortion ban, but said she would let states decide.

    She did come out as supporting the federal legislation, H.R. 8404, which codified same-sex marriage and repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, which was voted on twice last year. This is not considered a flip-flop because Lauf had not stated a position on same-sex marriage, but she did veer left and proved her conservatism was based on the culture, not on the Biblical teachings true social conservatives believe and obey.

    It should also be noted, Hart was one of very few Republican campaigns running TV commercials on broadcast TV in the month before the election. Hart still lost to Democrat then-state Representative Deb Conroy.

    More to come later, but it’s late, and there is more to discuss.

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