Quick Hit Matthew Blake Friday November 2nd, 2012, 4:02pm

After The Illinois House Expelled Smith, Lawmakers Have Looked The Other Way During His Campaign

The Illinois state legislature does not hold summer sessions, but this year longtime Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, took the extraordinary step of bringing the Illinois House together for one day.

Madigan’s reason was to vote on expelling Derrick Smith, a West Side Chicago Democrat federally indicted for bribery. House members voted on August 17 100-6 to kick Smith out, the upper chamber’s first expulsion since 1905.

Madigan appeared to send the message that the state now took a zero tolerance approach to corruption, even when the subject in question was not proven guilty.

Today, Smith is favored to win election on Tuesday for the 10th district seat he lost in disgrace. And Madigan, along with some other powerful Land of Lincoln politicos, have done nothing to stop him.

Madigan, whose spokesman did not return calls today for this story, has neither endorsed Smith nor Smith's opponent Lance Tyson, a municipal bond lawyer running under the ad hoc “10th District Unity Party.” Tyson bills himself as the “real Democrat” in the race and will caucus with the Democratic Party if elected.

“Mike Madigan wins either way,” says Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and chair of the University of Illinois-Chicago political science department. “It’s not like contested races to defeat Republicans.”

A former chief of staff for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, Tyson has the active support of Secretary of State Jesse White, the man who originally recommended Smith’s appointment for the 10th district seat and campaigned for Smith’s primary victory even after the former state lawmaker was arrested.

And Tyson does enjoy an endorsement of Gov. Quinn, who spent one Sunday afternoon this October stumping for the Unity Party candidate.

But Madigan and other Illinois House Democrats that voted to kick Smith out are conspicuously absent in Tyson’s list of endorsements. In fact, Tyson’s endorsement list has the names of just two members of the Illinois General Assembly, Democratic House members Jack Franks of Woodstock and Daniel Burke of Chicago.

“I think in some respect they may be afraid to ask for deviation from the Democratic ticket,” says Don Rose, a longtime political consultant in Chicago.

Rose hypothesizes that Democrats may have the expectation that “should the guy win, he will go on trial” for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe.

“So the presumption is no matter what happens, he will not be with us for that long,” Rose says. However, the House is not allowed to force Smith out a second time unless they can come up with a new reason for his expulsion.

Illinois House Republican leadership is also silent about the Smith debacle. No GOP member of the House has stepped forward and said that, for the sake of good government, 10th district voters must vote for the guy who was not recently expelled. Messages left with House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and the Illinois Republican Party were not returned.

Some Democrats have reasons for staying neutral.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle will not support Tyson due to his affiliation with her predecessor Stroger. “There is no way for Lance to disassociate himself from the past I inherited,” Preckwinkle told the Chicago Sun-Times.

And U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, whose West Side congressional district covers the 10th state house district, says that voters view Smith as innocent until proven guilty.

"They kind of take seriously the fact that an allegation is not a verdict of guilty," Davis told the Chicago Tribune. "They cite the numbers of people who have been convicted, been on death row and other places and then it turns out that they were not guilty."

But 100 members of the 118-member Illinois House did not see things this way, kicking Smith out before his trial. With even an internal Tyson poll indicating that Smith is ahead, House lawmakers may have a chance to ask Smith about the pending trial when the state legislature reconvenes.


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