CHICAGO: Candidate Indicted for Bribery Is Leading by 40 Points

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Illinois-quarterThe seat representing the 10th House District in the Illinois General Assembly seems to be a pretty safe one for the Democrats. I infer this from the fact that a recent poll showed that the current Democratic candidate for that seat was leading his opponent by a remarkable 40 points, despite having been expelled from the state legislature less than a month before because he had been indicted for taking bribes.

Might need to put Blagojevich on that quarter instead of Lincoln.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, former state Rep. Derrick Smith became a former state rep on August 17, when the House voted to kick him out for allegedly taking a $7,000 bribe. (He has not been tried or convicted to date, but prosecutors say they have a recording in which the bribe money is actually being counted out to him one bill at a time. If true, that could have a major effect on a jury, especially if it turns out he asked that it all be in singles.)

Smith did not show up to defend himself at the proceeding. “If you look at Rep. Smith’s seat, he isn’t here,” said one representative, using his skills as a former prosecutor to point out Smith’s non-presence. The vote to expel was 100-6.

Yet in the recent poll, taken less than one month later, Smith was leading his opponent Lance Tyson 48 percent to 9 percent (+/- 4 points). According to the report, “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.” You think?

On the other hand, they may know and not care. Smith was arrested just a week before the Democratic primary in March, and that probably wasn’t a secret, but he still won overwhelmingly. If he wins in November, the Assembly then has a dilemma because, for double-jeopardy-like reasons, it apparently cannot try to expel him again on the same grounds. So lawmakers will either have to come up with another reason to kick him out, or sit tight and see if he is convicted in the federal trial. If, that is, the voters don’t reject Smith first.

“This is going to be one [campaign] that a lot of people watch,” said the pollster, probably incorrectly. “And if an indicted candidate who’s been expelled from the House wins,” he continued, “I believe there’ll be a lot of questions asked.” Maybe, but probably not by the voters.

Would it be worse to lose to someone who’s currently under indictment, or to someone who’s currently dead? Hard to say.

UPDATE: Smith was in fact re-elected in November 2012 despite the pending indictment, thus reclaiming his seat in the House. Under state law, the Legislature could not expel him a second time for the same reason, so he continued to serve. In early 2014 the voters apparently changed their mind about Smith, because he lost in the primary election that year. He was convicted of bribery and extortion in June 2014, but was not sentenced right away and so was able to serve out his term, leaving office in January 2015. Three months later, he was sentenced to five months in prison. Smith maintained after his conviction that the full story hadn’t been told, saying that “the jury didn’t see what God saw.” Maybe not, but Smith was on tape taking a bribe (which he referred to as “cheddar”) and actually counting out the money, so that was apparently enough for the jury.