Illinois Republicans name new chairman

By Peter Hancock 
Capitol News Illinois

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy. (Photo courtesy of Illinois Republican Party)

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Republican Party Central Committee on Saturday named Springfield attorney Don Tracy as its new chairman, replacing Tim Schneider, who had held the post for more than six years.

Tracy, a partner in the firm Brown Hay and Stephens, also served as chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board during former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.

“I ran for this position because I love Illinois – it’s my home – and I believe the ILGOP can be a tremendous catalyst for change in this state,” Tracy said in a statement after the election. “The upcoming election cycle can be monumental if we seize on the tremendous opportunities before us.”

Tracy was chosen over two other candidates, Mark Shaw, who is the Lake County GOP Chairman and president of the Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association, and Scott Gryder, the Kendall County Board Chairman. Tracy is also the first party chairman since 1988 who is not from Chicago or the collar counties.

He now faces the challenge of unifying the state party organization, where divisions have erupted over the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, of Channahon, was one of 10 Republicans in the House to vote in favor of impeaching Trump during his final days in office on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, prompting dozens of GOP county party chairmen in southern Illinois to issue a statement condemning his actions.

On Thursday, two days before the chairmanship election, the state party issued a statement saying that while it strongly disagreed with Kinzinger and other Republicans who voted for impeachment, “we will let the voters be the arbiters of any vote taken by an elected official.”

“The stakes of the 2022 election here in Illinois — defeating Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, winning back congressional seats, and electing Republican judges to the Illinois Supreme Court — are too monumental to engage in a circular firing squad,” the statement read.

Republican U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, Darin LaHood and Mike Bost all issued statements Monday praising the choice of Tracy as the new chairman.

“Illinoisans have had enough of the Democrats’ destructive policies in Springfield, and I know Don’s conservative leadership will help put the GOP on a path to help fix the many challenges our state faces,” Bost said in a statement. “I am excited to work with Don and unite our party for victory in 2022!”

Democrats, on the other hand, responded to Tracy’s election by criticizing his ties to both Trump and Rauner, and by criticizing his tenure as chairman of the Gaming Board.

Tracy served as chairman from February 2015 until June 2019 when he resigned following an Office of Executive Inspector General’s report that found he had engaged in improper political activity by making several campaign contributions while serving on the board, in violation of the Riverboat Gambling Act.

“The Illinois GOP has deemed Don Tracy, a Trump supporter who resigned as the Illinois Gaming Board chair after steering illegal contributions to former Governor Rauner’s campaign, as their best hope to carry their party into the future,” Democratic Party of Illinois executive director Mary Morrissey said in a statement. “It will be interesting to see if the Illinois Republican Party will continue to embrace questionable leadership, division and extremism or consider working with Democrats to find solutions that lift up workers and families across Illinois. We aren’t holding our breath.”

Republican Party spokesman Joe Hackler criticized the Democrats’ statement.

“Ms. Morrissey’s statement is rich given that the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois is Mike Madigan, the most corrupt politician in America,” Hackler said in an email statement. “Don Tracy looks forward to uniting the Republican Party in Illinois around a positive agenda of reform: ending corruption, restoring fiscal sanity, growing our economy, and standing for law and order.”