Dems call on voters to support Derrick Smith, despite bribery arrest

March 19, 2012

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(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Ald. Walter Burnett (from left), U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Ald. Emma Mitts and Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele on Sunday

Some Chicago Democratic leaders are urging voters to support state Rep. Derrick Smith. That's despite Smith's arrest last week on a federal bribery charge.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and other members of the group West Side Black Elected Officials said on Sunday that voters shouldn't rush to judgment on Smith's guilt.

"We know that our colleague is charged with criminal activity, Davis said at a press conference outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. "But we also know that a charge is not a conviction."

Still, Smith is not doing much to explain his innocence. He was not at the press conference and his campaign has not returned repeated messages seeking comment.

But Davis and others acknowledged their push is as much about Smith's opponent as it is about Smith himself. Tom Swiss is the only other candidate running in the Democratic primary, and - as Davis pointed out - Swiss has held leadership positions in the local Republican Party.

 

"We want to make sure that we don't elect a wolf in sheep's clothing," Davis said.

Swiss has said he hasn't worked with the Republicans for several years.

If Smith wins the Democratic nomination and ends up resigning or is forced to resign, Democratic leaders would pick his replacement on the ballot for the general election.

But if Swiss wins, the ballot spot is his. Democrats could try to run an independent or third-party candidate against him, though.

"If think at some point in time that we would be looking at that [if Swiss wins]," said Ald. Emma Mitts, chair of the West Side Black Elected Officials. "I don't want a sheep in wool clothing to represent no parts of my ward."

The 10th state House District includes parts of Chicago's North and West Sides.