SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Republicans will be led by a downstate resident for the first time in more than 30 years. The party chose former Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Don Tracy of Springfield on Saturday as its new chair.
In a news release, the Illinois GOP announced that members of the State Central Committee gave Tracy their unanimous support over two other finalists, state party co-chair Mark Shaw of Lake Forest and Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder of Oswego.
Tracy is a lawyer and, with his eleven siblings, the owner of Mt. Sterling-based Dot Foods, Inc., a national redistributor of food and related products that was founded by his father and employs 6,000 people across North America.
In a statement, Tracy said that there were opportunities for Republican victories in the 2022 election, but they depend on uniting the party, which has been divided over issues such as Donald Trump’s presidency, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My number one priority is to give every Republican a seat at the table and give every Republican a voice,” said Tracy. “Regardless of our difference, Republicans are the only hope for turning Illinois around and keeping it from becoming a depopulated, over-taxed and anti-police financial basket case.”
Tracy was appointed to the Illinois Gaming Board by former Governor Bruce Rauner, serving as its chair. A 2019 Illinois Inspector General’s report alleged that Tracy broke state gambling laws by making or directing political contributions to Rauner. Tracy denied the charge.
Democrats noted the allegation in their comments on Tracy’s new GOP leadership role.
“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,” said Illinois Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Morrissey on the state party’s Facebook page. “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.”
Tracy succeeds outgoing Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider, who announced a transition plan to select a new chairman in December. According to the state GOP news release, Schneider immediately offered his resignation, following the State Central Committee’s choice of Tracy. He had two years remaining on his term.