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Democratic officials to form 3rd party to defeat Derrick Smith

Updated at 6:12 p.m.

Democratic officials have decided to form a third party in Chicago. They're looking to run a candidate this fall against indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith.

It's called the 10th District Unity Party, but it is really a way for Democratic leaders from Chicago's West Side to run a candidate against one of their own.

Smith won the March primary, even though he'd been arrested on a federal bribery charge a week earlier. Some Democratic officials had supported Smith in the primary up until the end, favoring him over his challenger, former Republican Party official Tom Swiss.

After Smith glided to a 77 percent to 23 percent victory, Dems as high as Gov. Pat Quinn called on him to resign. But Smith has vowed to fight the charges and keep working.

So Secretary of State Jesse White and other party leaders opted to run a third party candidate. On a new website for the Unity Party, applicants can download a questionnaire. The Democrats want to make sure they don't pick a flawed candidate, so they're asking 10 pages of questions about tax liens, bankruptcy, divorces, and abuse of drugs and performance enhancing substances.

A spokesperson said the group will interview candidates on Tuesday, May 22.

White, as the Democratic committeeman from the 27th Ward, will lead the search committee.

In a statement Monday, White said, "It is unfortunate that we have to do this, but the alternative is unacceptable."

A call to Smith's attorney, Vic Henderson, was not immediately returned.

The process of coalescing around a single candidate may not be a smooth one. West Side Democrats are a fragmented group, and tensions spiked during the March primary season as state Sen. Annazette Collins faced a tough primary challenge from formal mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins.

Watkins won with White's backing, while 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin is a supporter of Collins.

"It's possible [we won't be able to agree on a consensus candidate], yes, it's possible," Ervin said Monday. "I believe that if we have a quality, qualified individual that we should be able to unite behind that individual."

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