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Former GOPer who ran failed Democratic bid resurfaces in state House race

Tom Swiss former candidate for Illinois House Representatives (D-10th District). File pho| John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Tom Swiss, former candidate for Illinois House of Representatives (D-10th District). File photo | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 20, 2012 6:17AM

Remember Tom Swiss ­— the white former executive director of the Cook County Republican Party who ran for state representative as a Democrat, and who, instead of using his own photo on his billboards, ran a photo of a black construction worker in the predominantly African-American district?

He’s back.

Swiss’ notary seal shows up on the petitions of the new Republican candidate in the district, Kimberly Small, the one who posted envelope-pushing jokes mocking First Lade Michelle Obama on her Facebook page.

But, No, Swiss said Monday, he has not converted back from Democrat to Republican — he is just a notary willing to notarize petitions for candidates in either party willing to take on the system.

“I will sign petitions, and I will notarize petitions for either party,” Swiss said. “It’s not a particularly ideological battle — it’s a battle against corruption I’m fighting.”

Swiss will not have any further involvement in Small’s campaign, he said.

It’s not clear how good a job Small’s supporters did gathering signatures to put a Republican on the ballot in the district which includes the West Side and parts of the Near Northwest Side.

Twin challenges to her petitions say Small did not gather enough valid signatures. The challenges were filed by Ald. Jason C. Ervin (28th), who is also the Democratic ward committeeman, and a voter tied to third-party candidate Lance Tyson

Small needed 500 signatures of voters from the district. She turned in 1,300 signatures, but many of those are from people who live outside the district and only about 320 are valid, according to attorneys working against her.

All this is happening in the district where federal prosecutors say the incumbent state representative, Derrick Smith, took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for sponsoring a bill to help a day-care center.

Democratic officials led by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), urged voters to support Smith over Swiss in the Democratic primary in March, assuring them that Smith would drop out after the primary.

Smith beat Swiss in a landslide and decided he would not drop out.

So the Democratic committeemen then slated Tyson to run as a third-party candidate with the Democrats’ blessing.

Tyson is a municipal bond lawyer who worked as one of Mayor Daley’s legislative liaisons in Springfield for five years, then spent a year and a half as Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s chief of staff.

The Democrats don’t want a viable Republican on the ballot messing up their plan to replace a tainted Democrat with a Democrat running under the banner of the “Unity Party.”

Small sells private jets for a living. She could not be reached for comment Monday but her attorney predicted she would survive the ballot challenge.

“She, herself, door-to-door collected 280 signatures, so we’re feeling confident we have 500-plus valid signatures,” said Small’s attorney Charles M. Watts.

Attorney Jim Nally is representing Ervin on his challenge. Attorney Mike Kasper — the lawyer for the state Democratic Party led by state House Speaker Michael Madigan and who kept Rahm Emanuel on the mayoral ballot — filed the other challenge.

Ervin backed a rival candidate instead of Tyson to take on Smith and was reluctant to commit to supporting Smith. By agreeing to let the challenge to Small be filed in his name, Ervin apparently is signaling that he is on-board with the other Democratic committeemen in the district backing Tyson.

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