CHICAGO — Democratic leaders are trying to avoid sending former Rep. Derrick Smith, who was indicted for bribery, back to the General Assembly after he was expelled earlier this year.
Smith had represented the 10th District in the state House of Representatives for a year when he was charged earlier this year with soliciting and receiving a $7,000 bribe in exchange for backing a state grant for a day-care center.
Smith was hit with the federal charges a week before the March primary, but still won that election with more than three-quarters of the vote. This summer, he was expelled from the General Assembly by a 100-6 vote, but he remains on the ballot as the Democratic candidate Tuesday.
Secretary of State Jesse White, who once employed Smith and backed his appointment to the General Assembly, is now supporting Chicago attorney Lance Tyson as the independent Unity candidate in the race, in which no Republican is running.
White is also the 27th Ward Democratic committeeman, and the ward's regular Democratic organization contributed $20,000 to the Tyson campaign late last month, according to state disclosure filings. And Tyson got $1,000 from the Friends of Walter Burnett Jr., the political fund for the 27th Ward alderman.
Tyson was chief of staff to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and has also received a $700 contribution from Vince Williams, Stroger's last campaign manager.
That's why Tyson has not received the backing of current Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, who cites the mess she was left by the Stroger administration. She has called the race a "nightmare" choice and refused to support either candidate. Gov. Pat Quinn has supported Tyson, however.
Smith, by contrast, had $49,000 in his campaign fund going into October in the race, but had spent relatively little and taken in less since being indicted. He has maintained a low profile, although an October article in the Chicago Reader did report he was campaigning door to door. He did not return calls for comment, and neither did Tyson.
Barbs have been traded during the campaign. A Tyson brochure said: "Derrick Smith is so corrupt that even the Illinois Legislature doesn't want him around" and unattributed leaflets in the district depicted Smith on a "wanted" poster.
"There isn't a Democrat in that race," declared Manuel Galvan, a spokesman for the county Democratic Party.
The district stretches from Old Town to Garfield Park and includes sections of the 27th, 28th, 32nd and 43rd wards. The 43rd Ward Democrats, however, have made no endorsement in the race.
Smith was allegedly recorded soliciting and accepting the bribe, according to the federal complaint, which ran on the Sun-Times website.
In August, he became the first representative expelled from the General Assembly since 1905. If re-elected, rules involving double jeopardy would prevent him from being expelled again — until he's actually found guilty of the corruption charges. Smith faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
His trial is not expected to start before next year.