CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday became the latest high-profile Illinois Democrat to back the candidate running against expelled state Rep. Derrick Smith.
Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White – who was once a Smith supporter – appeared at a news conference on the city’s West Side to back Chicago attorney Lance Tyson, a candidate chosen by Democrats after Smith was indicted on federal bribery charges and refused to step down.
“When we elect someone to office they must have an ethic of service, and that’s what Lance Tyson is all about,” Quinn said at the event held at a senior center.
Smith was expelled from office in August, but he remains on the Nov. 6 ballot in a safely Democratic district. If he wins, he can hold office because Illinois law only allows someone to be expelled once.
Democratic leaders in Chicago chose Tyson to challenge Smith under the “Unity Party” banner, as Smith is on the ballot as a Democrat.
Speaking to a crowd of about 50 people Sunday, Tyson called himself “the real Democrat” in the race. He said the nation is watching to see whether voters in a state known for political corruption will “step up” for character and integrity.
“I have faith, and I believe that all the other Democrats have faith we’re going to do the right thing here,” Tyson said.
Smith was arrested days before the March primary in an FBI sting. He was accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for helping what he thought was a daycare center to obtain a state grant. He pleaded not guilty.
Despite the arrest, Smith easily won his primary contest and has refused to resign from the race. Smith was first appointed to the House last year to fill a vacancy.
White said Sunday that Smith has let his constituents and his supporters down.
“Derrick Smith sold us out. The legislative body threw him out. And of course, we should vote him out,” he said.
Among the voters attending Sunday’s event was Etta Burns, 83, who was born and raised on the West Side and said she’s involved in Democratic politics. Burns hasn’t decided which candidate she will support and says she’s torn because Smith has not been found guilty.