by La Risa Lynch
Former State Rep Derrick Smith won re-election to the same House seat he was expelled from three months ago.
Smith handily won his race over third party candidate Lance Tyson, who ran under the Unity Party banner. With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Smith received 23,807 of the votes or 62.61 percent compared to Tyson’s 14,215 or 37.39 percent.
Smith was greeted warmly by a handful of supporters when he arrived at his election night headquarters at the JLM Abundant Life Community Center, 2622 W. Jackson in East Garfield Park.
He thanked his supporters and the voters who stuck by him even with bribery allegation hanging over his campaign. Smith was arrested for accepting a $7,000 bribe and then subsequently expelled out of the General Assembly six months later. He became the first politician in 107 years and the first Black ever to be expelled from the General Assembly.
The win Smith said is not a vindication of the General Assembly’s efforts to remove him from his 10th District House seat. But the win shows the will of the people. Smith seemingly had an uphill battle when top West Side Democrat leaders jumped ship to support Tyson, a one-time top aide to former Cook County Board Todd Stroger. Tyson got support from the Gov. Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madison and Secretary of State Jesse White, who paved the way for Tyson to run against Smith.
"Everyone has their choice and they made a choice, but the people spoke,” Smith said. “I just want to thank everyone for the support that they have given me, and I am looking forward to representing the 10th District in Springfield."
Smith credits his win to getting the truth out as to who the real Democrat is. His opponent ran on the tagline that he is the “real Democratic” candidate. Smith said he has been in the political arena for over 32 years and a Democrat all his life “and today we are showing everyone who is the real democrat.”
"I just told the truth,” he said. “The gentleman that ran against me doesn’t live in the district, and he couldn’t vote for himself."
When asked if it would be tough working with the same legislature that expelled him, Smith said he had no reservation about going back to the General Assembly.
"I’m in this as a state representative to represent the people and that’s why I know it wouldn’t be difficult because I know I have the people behind me,” Smith said.
Former 28th Ward alderman Ed Smith, who has been Derrick Smith’s staunchest supporter, was a bit more critical. He noted some politicians, including Gov. Quinn overstepped boundaries by supporting an individual who was not the people’s choice.
"The people who were opposed to Derrick Smith wasn’t listening to the people,” said Ed Smith, who is of no relation to the state rep. “I think they were terrible impetuous when they expelled him the first time. All we had to do to avoid all of this was to work with Derrick Smith.”
He said the move to expel Derrick Smith is akin to convicting him without a trial. He said the U.S. Constitution says a person is innocent until proven guilty and Smith was not afforded that.
"I can tell you the people out here are not going to forget what happened here,” Ed Smith said. “People don’t have short memories when it comes to these kinds of things."
However, Derrick Smith wanted to make one thing clear. He said that there was no deal for him to step aside once he won the primary in order for the Democratic Party to pick a replacement candidate. Smith defeated Tom Swiss, a white candidate who ran as a Democrat despite being former chairman of the Cook County Republican party.
"I never made a deal with anyone,” Smith said. “It wasn’t hard for me to stay in the race.”
East Garfield Park resident Coco Smith (also of no relation to the state rep) was among a handful of supporters gathered at Derrick Smith’s election night headquarters. Smith worked on the representative’s campaign making calls and canvassing neighborhoods. She predicted a landslide before final vote totals came in.
"He is going to win double digits. The residents still believe in him and the polls show that,” Coco Smith said.
Norvel Jefferson, also of East Garfield, said he supported Derrick Smith because he was unfamiliar with Tyson.
"Mr. Tyson never reached out the community,” Jefferson said. “He never was in touch with the community. He never walked the streets in the community so we didn’t know who he was. I think we are just tired of people picking our representatives for us."
Smith’s next challenge is clearing his name.
“I’ll have my day in court,” he said. “I am talking to my attorneys and trying to get them to expedite the process, and we’ll deal with that when it comes.”