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Chicago voters send indicted ex-rep Smith back to Illinois Legislature

Indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith campaigns door-to-door West Adams October.  |   Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

Indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith campaigns door-to-door on West Adams in October. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Election 2012: Complete coverage
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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:18AM



In one of the Chicago area’s strangest elections, voters on the city’s West Side and Northwest Side returned to office Derrick Smith, their former state representative who was expelled after being indicted for bribery.

The result was so clearcut that Smith’s opponent, Lance Tyson — who was backed by Democratic Party leaders but ran as a third-party candidate under the banner of the Unity Party — conceded defeat around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tyson, who was chief of staff to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, tried to call Smith but couldn’t get through.

Maze Jackson, Tyson’s campaign manager said it was tough to get people in the heavily Democratic legislative district to “resist the pull of voting Democratic.” Jackson added, “I think everybody feels, guilty or innocent, Smith is not going to be effective as a legislator.”

Smith appeared at his headquarters around 9:30 p.m.

“My constituents respect that I haven’t had my day in court yet,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Asked how he can work with colleagues in the House who booted him out of office, Smith said, “It won’t be difficult because I have the people behind me.”

Under the Illinois Constitution, Smith can’t be expelled from office twice on the same charges. If convicted in the federal case, though, he would once again have to leave office.

Only 12 people attended Smith’s victory celebration at a West Side church hall. A large spread of ribs and pasta went mostly uneaten.

Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady ripped Smith’s election, saying, “It’s a national disgrace that Illinois Democrats were more interested in protecting their power than in defeating a man indicted for accepting bribes.”

With 97 percent of the district’s 116 precincts counted, Smith’s lead was a commanding 63 percent to 37 percent.

Smith was arrested March 13 in an undercover FBI sting in which he allegedly accepted a $7,000 bribe from a government informant who claimed to be acting for a day-care operator seeking Smith’s help in securing a $50,000 state grant.

Smith, a onetime protege of Secretary of State Jesse White, was appointed to his House seat last year. Since the indictment, White switched his support to Tyson, who ran as a Unity Party candidate because Smith won the Democratic primary a week after being arrested.

Tyson, a municipal bond lawyer, also was backed by Gov. Pat Quinn. But former Ald. Ed Smith, who remains influential, stood by the indicted Democrat.

At one point in the campaign, Smith distributed placards showing Tyson and Mitt Romney and saying the two had something in common: They aren’t Democrats.



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