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The stain on the Democrats’ big night

Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012

* The Democrats won more races yesterday than they thought they would, many by a larger amount than they ever dreamed possible. Yet, there was this

Former state Democratic Rep. Derrick Smith, booted from his House seat in August because of a federal bribery charge, won back his post with 62 percent of the vote over a candidate the Democrats wanted to replace him.

The Illinois Constitution precludes kicking Smith out more than once for the same offense.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to an allegation that he accepted a $7,000 bribe in exchange for political support in favor of a grant application. Although expelled from the House, he refused to leave the ballot and easily defeated the Democrats’ pick, 10th District Unity candidate Lance Tyson, who has worked for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

“No one’s really talking about it, and they’re just saying, ‘You’re innocent until proven guilty,’” Smith said during a visit to a west-side Chicago polling place. “I’ve been talking to my lawyer continually to try to expedite it so I can clear my name.”

The Illinois Constitution prohibits the House from kicking Smith out again for the same reason. So, they can either come up with another reason or just let him sit there until he’s either convicted or acquitted.

And then there’s Secretary of State Jesse White, who had Smith appointed to the House and then failed to implement any sort of early plan to defeat Smith at the polls. The Lance Tyson campaign simply didn’t get off the ground early enough. Maybe it would’ve never worked. It’s very possible, even probable, that Tyson was doomed from the start. But the slapdash, late-entry nature of his campaign didn’t do him any favors. White is a ward guy. He should’ve known that this would take time to put together.

And there’s Speaker Madigan, who didn’t do much, if anything, to help Tyson.

* The biggest culprit here is Smith, of course. Nobody else can be blamed for his arrest and indictment for allegedly accepting a cash bribe. White didn’t know that Smith would go on the take. Neither did Madigan.

Smith becomes the second House member in a century to be kicked out of the chamber, only to win the seat back in an election. When Rod Blagojevich was impeached and then convicted and removed, the Constitution forbade him from ever running again for state office. I’d hate to change a Constitution just because of one bad guy, and the last person to reclaim his seat was booted for purely political reasons, so there’s that.

So, I guess I’m wondering what your thoughts are today.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - shore - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    How many seats have Democrats lost to corruption issues the last 4 years? I think people don’t like it, but mostly don’t care.

  2. - Just Me - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:21 am:

    I’m waiting to see if Secretary White, who got Smith appointed to the seat in the first place, will refuse to sign his papers via Roland-Burris-appointment-nightmare. White even has to do the swearing-in ceremony for crying out loud!

    I also wonder how this impacts White’s re-election. Is he really so popular that he can’t be connected to this national embarrassment?

  3. - ILPundit - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:21 am:

    I think team Jesse, never a group known to set the world on fire, has grown way too complacent. They better hope they don’t draw an aggressive, well funded opponent in 2014. I think they would struggle under the weight of a real challenge.

  4. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    I don’t care. He won’t be seated, someone will replace him.

  5. - amalia - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    A campaign begins and ends with the candidate. While these kinds of races are certainly difficult, happy happy joy joy doesn’t cut it.

  6. - OneMan - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:27 am:

    How can they avoid seating him?

  7. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:31 am:

    How do other states handle this? Illinois can’t be the only one with this problem. Maybe since it happens only every hundred years or so, we should just leave it alone but it would be useful to find out if other states’ constitutions address it.

  8. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:31 am:

    Yes, Derrick Smith was elected as a Democrat, but can’t Democrats just expel him from their caucus?

  9. - Will Caskey - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:32 am:

    Meh. If it’s that big a deal and he’s still around next primary, primary him. Otherwise voters want things, get them, film at 11.

  10. - John A Logan - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:34 am:

    I really is not a stain on the night. It actually should be something celebrated by democrats. The ultimate sign of the strength of the democratic brand in Illinois.

  11. - Stones - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:36 am:

    I wouldn’t want the seat next to him! Awkward!

  12. - On the real - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:42 am:

    Maybe if Lance Tyson’s campaign manager hadnt left for Paris 2 weeks before the election things might have been different.

  13. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    === I wouldn’t want the seat next to him! Awkward! ===

    Yep. A couple weeks ago I asked a State Rep if its going to be awkward if Smith returns — they answer was a resounding yes.

  14. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    Of course I don’t know what discussions the speaker has had with Rep. Smith, but the on-paper Dem super majority in the House might find some jeopardy if Rep. Smith holds a grudge. He might be Gov. Quinn’s new best ally when it comes to vetoes.

  15. - On the real - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:48 am:

    Jesse White’s organization is so thin that they’ll probably nominate Walter Burnett’s wife Darlena to run in 2014.

  16. - Rudy - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    It could be that some district voters were casting a vote against the feds and their entrapment schemes.

  17. - mr. whipple - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    I believe Madigan can get rid of Smith if the US Atty will file a new charge or two. They can’t kick him out based on the old charges, but they could on new ones.

    But, if the opportunity presents itself, do they have the intestinal fortitude to do so?

  18. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    – He might be Gov. Quinn’s new best ally when it comes to vetoes. –

    Just his luck, Quinn’s got a proven record of being able to work with people under federal investigation.

  19. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    “….being able to work with people under federal investigation.”

    It’s called conditioning.

  20. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    The superseding indictment on different charges is a clever idea. Unfortunately, no AUSA in that offica would ever do anything that would be seen as cooperating with politicians.

  21. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 1:18 pm:

    The other stain is the Cook County Dems urging a yes vote on Judge Cynthia Brim.

    I hope she gets the help she seems to need but the idea that the Cook County Democratic Party recommended retaining her, and the voters did so, is about all you need to know about the way we choose judges.

  22. - Hacks - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 1:41 pm:

    I don’t think Jesse White wanted to spend the money necessary. He knows what it would take in the wards, but didn’t want to spend the money on the necessary manpower.

    I don’t think Madigan cares. Smith will vote exactly the way he wants.

  23. - Cheswick - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 1:47 pm:

    Sorry if I’m stepping on delicate toes here, but the real stain is the premature ejection of Smith by the House.

  24. - amalia - Wednesday, Nov 7, 12 @ 2:44 pm:

    @ On the Real…Paris, Illinois? Texas? ;-) unfreakin’believeable.

  25. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 7:37 am:

    Cheswick is correct. Tom Cross foolishly ignored the double jeopardy issue in pursuit of a press release.

    Thanks to Cross, the General Assembly’s hands are now tied.

    Perhaps that’s as it should be.

  26. - JakeCP - Thursday, Nov 8, 12 @ 7:42 am:

    Democrats are getting in the way of Democrats. Jesse White and CO. are finally discovering the problem with the mindset of Chicago Voters. They’ve been encouraged to only vote straight Democratic Ballots. There are many staunch Dems in Smith’s district. Many voters probably didn’t pay attention to the race and thought ” He’s a Democrat, connect the arrow”. I think it’s quite humorous.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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