Just weeks before Republican National Convention, Illinois GOP chair announces resignation

Just weeks before Republican National Convention, Illinois GOP chair announces resignation

By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
hmeisel@capitolnewsillinois.com

Halfway through the 2024 election cycle and just a few weeks away from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Illinois GOP Chair Don Tracy on Wednesday announced his resignation as head of the state Republican Party.

Tracy, who’d held the job since February 2021, explained his resignation in a two-page letter that cited intraparty “power struggles.” He also said he is concerned about the direction the party is taking under the current membership of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee – a 17-person body that steers the ILGOP, with one member elected from each congressional district.

“In better days, Illinois Republicans came together after tough intra party elections,” Tracy wrote. “Now however, we have Republicans who would rather fight other Republicans than engage in the harder work of defeating incumbent Democrats by convincing swing voters to vote Republican.”

Tracy was narrowly elected Illinois Republican Party chair in the wake of the 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol by those who sought to stop certification of the election for its winner, President Joe Biden, over former President Donald Trump. Even as Republicans publicly reckoned with the events of Jan. 6, hardline conservatives on the state central committee were pushing for a more ardent supporter of Trump and his politics than the previous chair, who was hand-picked by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Read more: Illinois Republicans name Don Tracy as new chairman

Instead, the party got Tracy, another Rauner ally who served as chair of the Illinois Gaming Board during the one-term governor’s administration. Tracy had unsuccessfully run for lieutenant governor in 2010, and in 2002, he lost a bid for a state Senate seat – but as a Democrat.

Tracy’s electoral history, as well as his experience as an attorney and co-owner of his family’s food distribution business, fit the mold of previous ILGOP chairs in a state where fiscally conservative and socially moderate suburban Republicans for decades were a political powerhouse.

But as Republican politics have changed both nationally and in Illinois, Tracy’s run as party chair proved tumultuous.

In the 2022 election cycle, Tracy’s first at the helm, Republicans lost big at the state level despite picking up one seat in the state Senate.

Even so, Tracy survived a no-confidence vote last spring and was holding onto power until this week.

In his letter, Tracy cited “recent events,” including state central committee members earlier this week removing one of their own from his position as state party vice chair “without due process.” Tracy wrote the move “portends a direction of the State Party I am not comfortable with.”

According to reporting from the Chicago Tribune, Mark Shaw, a state central committee member from Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, was stripped of his title and removed from the party’s fundraising committee on Monday. The vote was a rebuke of his behavior at a state party convention last month where he allegedly voted as a delegate despite not being one, and challenged another Republican official to a fight, the paper reported.

Additionally, Tracy wrote that he was “concerned about the current infatuation” of some state central committee members “with certain individuals they call ‘grass roots’ leaders.”

One such self-proclaimed grassroots Republican, former state Sen. Darren Bailey, celebrated Tracy’s resignation on social media Wednesday, calling it a “cleansing” of the state GOP.

“Fake republicans got us into this mess,” wrote Bailey, who earlier this year lost a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2022. “Real Republicans standing firm will get us out!!!”

The state’s Democratic Party – which had its own leadership fight two years ago – took the opportunity to gloat about the “chaos” within the ILGOP, claiming Democrats are a “united party” ahead of the November election.

Read more: Dems seek unity as new, former chair take no questions from media after party vote

Democrats panned the state GOP as “defined by a litany of electoral disasters, constant infighting, meager fundraising, and a strict adherence to a losing set of anti-choice, anti-worker, pro-Trump policies.”

“While we don’t expect new leadership to change any of that, we do wish the best of luck to the inevitable MAGA extremist who will succeed Don Tracy as Chair,” the party said.

Tracy’s letter indicated he would resign upon the election of a successor, “preferably no later than” July 19 – the day after the RNC is scheduled to conclude.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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