ILLINOIS (WMBD) — There’s new leadership in Illinois GOP.
Springfield Attorney Don Tracy has been selected as the Republican Party of Illinois’ new chairman.
Tracy grew up in Mt. Sterling between Quincy and Beardstown. He graduated from Arizona State and went to Memphis Law School. He’s been practicing law since 1976.
Tracy ran for State Senate in 2002 as a Democrat and Lt. Governor as a Republican in 2010. He also chaired the Gaming Board under Bruce Rauner for four years, and 6 months under Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Don Tracy joined Matt Sheehan for “On the Record” to discuss the future of the Republican Party and how it hopes to come together during a very divided time.
Tracy believes with politics being “so litigious these days,” having a law background is helpful.
“There are also all kinds of legal issues that pop up in politics,” Tracy said. “From complying with campaign reports to lawsuits against the party and by the party,” Tracy said. “Business, you have to be decisive, in this position I’m getting decisions thrown at me a million miles a minute. You have to manage people and a very large board. Being in business helps with that. You have to focus on your brand, your core values, core principles in business and party politics.”
Since the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, the Republican Party and former President Donald Trump have come under fire for sparking the flames of the insurrection. When asked about the GOP’s future, Tracy said he condemned the riot, but he also condemned the impeachment as well.
“We have a new President now, a hard-fought election, a lot of concerns about election security with all the massive mail-in balloting, including live ballots going out in several states, including the people outside, obviously, we weren’t able to prove that enough to set aside the election,” Tracy said. “We have a new President, he has the opportunity in his honeymoon to unite this country, because united countries do not do well in the scheme of history, yet he’s wasting any goodwill he might’ve gotten in this honeymoon period to try to further divide the country. I think that’s a big mistake, I think it’s bad to the country, and it’s a big mistake to the Democrats.”
Former President Trump was acquitted Saturday afternoon, Feb. 13.
Before Tracy was elected chairman of the GOP, the party had sent a statement saying they disagreed with any Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger included, who voted in favor of impeaching former President Trump or those voting to convict in the Senate.
Tracy maintained he still agrees with that statement, but with a condition.
“First I want to emphasize how bad that Capitol riot was. It was a travesty, those who assaulted law enforcement that day and those who broke into the Capitol, and defiled the Capitol, deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Tracy said. “About the only good thing that came out of that was that the first time in a long time, we heard not just Republicans condemning political violence and mob rule, but we also heard Democrat leaders finally condemning political violence and mob rule.”
Tracy said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) has been a “strong Republican for a long time.”
“He’s been a leader, he certainly passes the Reagan 80% rule,” Tracy said. “He’s been with us 90% of the time, I don’t believe in throwing people out of the party just because of an occasional or single political disagreement. There are a lot of people, Republicans who agree with Adam on this, I’m not one of them. I agree with our statement. I think it was a bad move, I think he’s walking into a trap set by the Democrats who are using impeachment, a process meant to remove a President, and they’re using it against a President who’s no longer President. So why are they doing it? Well I think they’re doing it to divide Republicans. I think Adam walked into that trap. This party, the Republican party of Illinois is not going to censure Adam Kinzinger.”
Recently, Congressman Kinzinger has talked about his Country First PAC (Political action committee). It has garnered a lot of national attention. Kinzinger said he wants to not stick to the status quo and is challenging what it means to be a Republican.
“I don’t know anything about Adam’s PAC. I know about the Illinois Republican Party. We’re poor as a church mouse right now. We’re better than we were in past years. We have like $200,000 in the bank whereas Chairman Madigan has multi-million dollars. In spite of that, we were able to win back a House seat this fall, we were supposed to lose ten. We were outspent by hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions. We still succeeded, but I’m promoting a strong party. We need a stronger party. We need more resources so we can elect more Republicans and make this a two-party State again,” Tracy said.
One topic Illinoisans love talking about is how they are fed up with taxes, including high property taxes, sales taxes, etc. Tracy believes the Illinois GOP can help with that.
“I think they’re right about that, we’re too high taxed of a state,” Tracy said. “That’s one of the big reasons people are leaving in droves. I think the solution is elect more Republicans. The Democrats have a lock on this State, total control, domination. Friday was Lincoln’s birthday, Lincoln understood that power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Democrats have absolute power in Illinois. They have all six statewide offices. They have the House and Senate, they have them by supermajorities. They completely dominate this state. When you have that power, you’ll have abuses. That’s why so many Democratic Senators in Illinois have been indicted recently. The easy solution is to elect more Republicans statewide, make Illinois a two-party State again.”
Tracy said one of his main goals is to unify the party.
“We’ve had a lot of differences over the past few years over various issues. We need to bring everybody back to the fold and add to that fold. I think we’ve proven, both that circular firing squads don’t work to elect Republicans statewide, but we’ve also proven that when we get together and unify we are a strong force,” Tracy said. “We proved that last fall by defeating Gov. Pritzker’s unfair tax proposal. All wings of the party. Moderate, liberal, conservative whatever you want to call us. The wings of the Republican party, we united and we defeated that soundly. If we do that again in fall 2022, and put aside our 20% differences because I think we all agree on at least 80% of the platform, then we will win in the fall of 2022.”
With a Democrat lead House of Representatives, Senate, and President of the United States, Sheehan asked Tracy what the future looks like for the GOP statewide and nationwide.
“We’re focusing on core values. The Republican Party has core values and core principles, honest government, a stronger economy, stronger families, fiscal sanity, more school choice. Equal opportunity and strong public safety. I think most Illinoisans agree on those core values. If they do, I think they’re going to find that particularly as the Democrat party drifts farther and farther leftward, that they’re more Republican than they are Democrat,” Tracy said. “I think the Democrats are going to help us with some of the crazy stuff they’re doing. Defunding and disarming the police, promoting socialism and this snap impeachment for which they’re trying to further divide the country. I think we’ll have some help. We’ll give them credit for an assist if we win big in 2022.”
Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) joined On The Record on Feb. 4 to talk about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Tracy responded to the decision saying he thought it was a “huge mistake.”
“There were going to be a lot of good jobs on that project. It was going to be a better, more efficient, safer way of moving that oil. Opposed to a bunch of trucks moving it down the road. It’s obvious that there’s this divide in the Democrat party, between the extreme environmentalist. Everyone is an environmentalist,” Tracy said. “We all want clean air and water, we all do that. but the perfect is the enemy of the good. These extreme environmentalists want to destroy our country and our economy by being pure, by restoring it to as if nobody lived here anymore and nobody had to work. There’s this growing divide in the Democrat party between workers and these extreme environmentalists. It seems these extreme environmentalists are winning.”
Back in Illinois, on Feb. 11, U.S. Attorney John Milhiser announced his resignation. Similarly, Illinois GOP Congresspeople spoke out against President Biden on reports U.S. Attorney John Lausch would be terminated as well.
“We oppose it. We understand a President has a prerogative of doing that, but in the history of our country, there have been exceptions made when you have political corruption investigations ongoing. In those situations, past Presidents have either kept the U.S. attorneys on until at least they can be replaced by a successor who is ready to take over those investigations. Or let the investigations run their course,” Tracy said.
Not just Republican lawmakers were opposed to the decision. Illinois Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) also expressed their support for Lausch, calling him “non-partisan.”
Tracy cited the ComEd investigation as an example of why to not terminate Lausch yet.
“That involves the Democrat party at the highest levels, USA Lausch, was direction that investigation. He was in charge of it. He should not be replaced overnight. Similarly, John Milhiser, who unfortunately has resigned now from the Biden presidency, just filed an indictment against Sam McCann, a former Senator who used to be a Republican but switched sides and did the Democrats bidding in running against Gov. Rauner in 2018. Those are two high-level political corruption investigations, and my friend John Milhiser and John Lausch should have been able to continue those investigations,” Tracy said.
The schedule for On the Record over the next few weeks is as follows.
6:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, on WMBD This Morning — State Sen. Sally Turner (R-IL)
6:20 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, on WMBD This Morning — Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis to discuss the current mayoral election.