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Ex-state Rep. Derrick Smith leading in election poll despite indictment, expulsion

Updated: September 17, 2012 9:03PM



SPRINGFIELD —Is getting expelled from the Illinois House enough to kill a legislator’s political future?

Apparently not for former state Rep. Derrick Smith.

Smith (D-Chicago) is blowing away his third-party opponent in a new poll of West Side voters despite being under federal indictment for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe.

Smith led 10th District Unity Party candidate Lance Tyson by a 48-percent-to-9-percent margin in an automated poll of 556 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.15 percentage points.

The survey, which showed 43 percent of respondents undecided, was performed by Illinois pollster We Ask America on Sept. 12 and first reported Monday by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller in his Capitol Fax newsletter.

Gregg Durham, chief operating officer of the polling group, said it appears residents in the 10th House District may be unaware of Smith’s August expulsion from the House because of his federal bribery charge.

“Usually, when we dig into these types of details, there’s a surprising amount of people busy making a living, raising kids and going through normal struggles of life who are unaware of what has happened,” Durham told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Former Rep. Smith has a common last name, and it’s not uncommon anywhere in Illinois for people to not pay attention in a state representative race, especially when there’s an important presidential race at hand,” he said. “If this election were held today, he’d swamp Mr. Tyson.”

Smith was indicted last spring after allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe from an undercover FBI informant who claimed to be acting as an intermediary to a purported daycare operator wanting Smith’s help in obtaining a $50,000 state grant. Smith allegedly wrote a letter of support for the daycare operator before taking the informant’s money.

Durham said another factor is that the automated poll informed voters of Smith and Tyson’s political affiliations, and many Democrats likely were swayed by learning Smith is the only Democrat in the race.

Among respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, 57 percent favored Smith, and only 7 percent chose Tyson.

“A lot of people vote on party loyalties,” Durham said.

Sun-Times political columnist Carol Marin reported that both House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have declared their neutrality in the Smith-Tyson campaign.

Secretary of State Jesse White backs Tyson, a one-time aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and chief of staff to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

If somehow Smith defeats Tyson on Nov. 6, he can reclaim his House seat in January, and the House would have to decide whether to re-initiate expulsion proceedings using a different reason than the rationale from August or simply allow him to remain in office pending the outcome of his federal corruption trial.

“This is going to be one [campaign] that a lot of people watch,” Durham said. “ And if an indicted candidate who’s been expelled from the House wins, I believe there’ll be a lot of questions asked.”



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