November 2, 2012
By: Tony Arnold of WBEZ 91.5
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had some harsh words on Friday for Derrick Smith, a candidate for the state House of Representatives.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s not welcome in my organization, he’s not welcome on the West Side and he’s definitely not welcome to represent me in Springfield,” White said.
White made the comments at a rally for Smith’s opponent in the race, Lance Tyson. Several top elected Democrats from Chicago’s West Side attended the event, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th) and Jason Ervin (28th).
White runs a powerful political operation on Chicago’s West Side and he once had gone to bat for Derrick Smith. But earlier this year, Smith was arrested for allegedly taking a $7,000 bribe.
“Someone told me that when you take money, make sure you take enough so you can afford a lawyer,” White said to laughter and an “Amen” at the rally.
Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but that didn’t stop his fellow representatives in the Illinois House from kicking him out in August. But Smith won the primary in this heavily Democratic district, and has been campaigning to regain his former seat.
Smith said White’s comments don’t bother him.
“As I’ve been talking to constituents on the West Side, I think they make the decision on who’s allowed on the West Side and who’s not,” Smith said in a phone interview in response to White’s comments. “And they have done so and showed me that I’m welcome in the primary.”
West Side Democrats, including White, slated Tyson to run against Smith in the general election. But since Smith had already claimed the Democratic primary, Tyson is running as a member of a third party called the Unity Party.
Despite his arrest, some polls have shown Smith with a sizable lead in the race. The district runs from Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side to Wicker Park on the northwest side to Lincoln Park on the North Side, a region that heavily supports Democratic candidates.
Smith has used the Democratic label heavily in his campaigning, saying that he’s the true Democrat in the race since he won the primary. Meantime Tyson has maintained that he’s the real Democrat in the race, since it was Democrats who slated him to run against Smith. There is no Republican on the ballot.