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Dems pick Lance Tyson to run against indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith

Lance Tysis running third-party Unity ticket against expelled indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith Illinois' 10th District.  |

Lance Tyson is running on the third-party Unity ticket against expelled and indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith in Illinois' 10th District. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:12AM

West and Northwest Side Democratic Ward committeemen have settled on a candidate to take on incumbent State Rep. Derrick Smith, who is charged with taking a $7,000 bribe.

Lance Tyson, 40, a municipal bond lawyer who served as Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s first chief of staff, emerged from a group of three finalists Wednesday to get the nod.

During five years working as a legislative liaison for Mayor Richard M. Daley, Tyson developed a rapport with some of the key players in Springfield.

At one point in the jockeying over who should take on Smith, Tyson was perceived as House Speaker Mike Madigan’s preferred choice. But then word came from Madigan’s office that he had no preference and committeemen were free to make their own choice.

Heading into Tuesday’s meeting of the committeemen who represent the district, it appeared that Tyson’s star had faded and Allstate Insurance Manager Melissa Conyears had the momentum, buoyed by the strong support of Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who has the largest share of votes among the district’s committeemen.

But some committeemen said they were very surprised to find out that in addition to being the recording secretary of Ervin’s political organization — an unpaid post — Conyears was also his girlfriend.

Ervin said after Wednesday’s meeting that was “common knowledge . . . her only crime was her association with the alderman.”

Still smarting from the defeat of his candidate after the meeting, Ervin would not commit to supporting Tyson.

“We may end up supporting him,” Ervin said.

Committeemen reportedly had some concerns about Tyson’s drunken-driving arrest in 1997 — a charge that was dismissed; his record as Stroger’s chief of staff, and the fact he lives a few blocks outside the district.

A third candidate was police officer Eddie Winters.

All three candidates were asked how much of their own resources they were willing to commit to the effort. Tyson pledged $20,000 while the other two pledged $10,000 each.

The committeemen all agreed it may be tough to beat the indicted incumbent by virtue of the fact that he will be running as the Democrat is a Democratic district.

Tyson will have to gather 1,500 signatures — he said he would gather 4,000 — all from circulators who did not circulate any petitions in the primary election.

The incumbent, Smith, was Secretary of State Jesse White’s ward superintendent, and White installed him as the state representative. Many of these committeemen continued backing Smith even after he was arrested and charged with taking the bribe a week before the primary election.

That was because they thought he would resign after getting elected, allowing them to appoint a replacement for him in the Legislature and on the ballot.

After getting elected, Smith decided he would not resign.

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