Alderman backs ex-con Carothers for county seat
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter February 6, 2014 5:16PM
Ald. Emma Mitts
Updated: March 8, 2014 6:14AM
A Chicago alderman has thrown her support behind convicted former Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers as he attempts to make a political comeback — and history — by becoming what one expert said would be the first area public official to return to elected office after doing time for corruption.
Documents filed with the state Board of Elections indicate Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) is the campaign chairwoman of the Friends of Ike Carothers committee, the political organization behind Carothers’ bid for an open Cook County Board seat.
The two served together as West Side aldermen before Carothers, whose influence stretched beyond his ward boundaries, left office in disgrace.
“I don’t think people should look at me as being horrible — look at me as being truthful,” Mitts said. “I’m not throwing a rock and hiding my hand . . . I’m putting my name on it.”
In the past, voters have not been forgiving of convicted pols who run for office after getting out, said Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois-Chicago professor and former Chicago alderman.
“A number have tried. ... No one has succeeded,” Simpson said, citing the recent examples of former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds and onetime Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, who both failed to return to office.
Reynolds was convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker and improperly using his campaign fund. Medrano is serving a second sentence for receiving bribes.
“Most have been thrown off the ballot either by the board of elections or the courts,” Simpson said.
But a quirk in Illinois law allows felons, like Carothers, to hold county and statewide office — even if they are barred from holding city office.
Al Sanchez, former Mayor Richard Daley’s convicted ex-Streets and Sanitation commissioner, was booted from the ballot in January because he is still on court-ordered probation for a mail fraud in a scheme that rewarded political foot soldiers with jobs.
But that limitation does not apply to Carothers — who pleaded guilty to receiving $40,000 worth of home renovations — because he completed his probation in September, prior to filing his nominating petitions, elections experts have said.
Simpson said Mitts was putting her reputation on the line by chairing Carothers’ committee. He added: “Machine politics are certainly alive and well on the West Side of Chicago.”
Mitts herself replaced — and later defeated — a former alderman who went away to prison and then tried to make a comeback.
Percy Giles was the sixth and last alderman to go down in the Operation Silver Shovel probe, following a 1999 conviction for taking payoffs and tax evasion. In 2007, he ran against Mitts and stayed on the ballot because his candidacy was not challenged, but lost handily.
Carothers, who couldn’t be reached for comment, made a big mistake by accepting bribes, Mitts said. But since his return from prison, he has been humbled, she added.
“He used to have this attitude of swag. He had a walk of power, throwing his weight around — I didn’t see that anymore,” said Mitts, who was a Carothers protégé on the City Council.
Mitts said some of her constituents on the city’s West Side have done time in jail or prison. “When they come back they don’t get a hand, they can’t get no help,” she said.
With that in mind, she said she decided to help Carothers.
“Whatever it says about Chicago, this would be the first time we’d be able to elect someone who went to prison [for corruption] and came back,” Mitts said. “I don’t know anybody who [has] been able to do that yet.”