Weather Updates

West Side can do better  than ousted state rep

Lance Tys was chosen by Democratic ward committeemen go up against state Rep. Derrick Smith who is running re-electidespite bribery

Lance Tyson, was chosen by the Democratic ward committeemen to go up against state Rep. Derrick Smith who is running re-election despite a bribery charge. . | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

storyidforme: 37214890
tmspicid: 13614980
fileheaderid: 5144921

Updated: October 21, 2012 2:45PM

A recent poll of West Side voters showing former state Rep. Derrick Smith swamping Lance Tyson, his third-party rival in the November election, is an embarrassment.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller in his Capitol Fax newsletter reported the survey Monday.

Although 43 percent of respondents were undecided (frankly, what’s there to decide), the tainted Smith led Tyson, a municipal lawyer, 48 percent to 9 percent.

If these voters aren’t vigilant, they could end up sending Smith back to the General Assembly even though he was expelled over allegations he took a $7,000 bribe.

Smith is innocent until proven guilty, but in this instance that’s beside the point. This is no longer about him. This is about you. Someone who is fighting to stay out of jail isn’t going to have much left over to fight battles on behalf of his constituents.

I sat down with Tyson at Ina’s Restaurant on Wednesday because I was curious about why he had such a poor showing against Smith.

Did he have two heads and a beer belly?

Tyson acknowledged the poll caught him off guard because he hasn’t even put his mailers out and was still making the rounds knocking on doors.

But he believes the poll doesn’t measure voter preference as much as it reveals how uninformed voters are in the 10th District.

“The notion that someone would be willing to sell out their community for $7,000 from a day center shouldn’t even exist.” he said.

Having worked closely with legislators, and having served as chief of staff at the beginning of former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s administration, Tyson had reasons to sit on the sidelines.

“Leadership is on the downfall,” he said. “As a man I could either let that happen or I could step up and I chose to step up. I think its imperative people recognize the consequences of electing that kind of leadership,” Tyson said.

It wasn’t supposed to be this messy.

After Smith won the primary, he reneged on a deal with Democratic supporters to let another Democrat take the seat. Despite pressure from Democratic honchos, Smith has refused to go away.

That forced them to run Tyson as a third-party candidate, which likely confused some voters.

“In order to inform voters, we have to pay for mailers and education. I’ve put $28,000 to $35,000 of my own money into this race,” he said.

“The real piece is waking people up. We need to talk to our folks and let them know the consequences of this election.”

Tyson left the Stroger administration after 11/2 years and before his reputation could be sullied by the incompetency that will be forever associated with Stroger’s tenure.

He is a married father with a 3-year-old. He took the bar three times before he passed, which says a lot about his tenacity. He knows how deals are struck and legislation is crafted. He’s founder of a successful law practice, the Tyson Law Group, and doesn’t appear to be looking for a job.

But more importantly, he seems to have the heart for the work that needs to be done.

If elected, his top priority would be to establish a tax credit for employers who hire ex-offenders and expand the authority of the Illinois Finance Authority to issue more debt to build more infrastructures and therefore hire more people, he said.

“I believe we address the violence problem by making sure a man can wake up in the morning, shave, iron his clothes and go to work. At the end of the day, his duty is to take care of his family and he is going to do it either through the criminal enterprise or the free enterprise,” Tyson said.

Smith was the first House member kicked out in more than 100 years. After expulsion, the disgraced legislator said people in the 10th District encouraged him to “fight the good fight.”

But what could that mean?

The good fight is getting young, idle men off the corners and putting them to work. The good fight is being welcomed at the table with legitimate business owners and striking deals that will build up the West Side. The good fight is setting a good example of credibility and competency for our children.

Because of the allegations hanging over his head, Smith can do none of these things effectively.

If Smith is re-elected because people don’t know, it would be tragic. If they know and go out and make that choice, “I will live with that,” Tyson said.

“Because at the end of the day, we get the government we deserve.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.