Democrats Rally Around Accused Bribe-Taker

Just as Ward Room predicted, West Side Democrats are rallying around indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith in his primary campaign against former (so he claims) Republican Tom Swiss. In Sunday's rally, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis begged 10th District voters to ignore Smith’s bribery arrest in the name of partisan loyalty. (Davis is also running for 29th Ward Committeeman.)

According to WBEZ:

“We know that our colleague is charged with criminal activity, Davis said at a press conference outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. “But we also know that a charge is not a conviction.”

Davis and others acknowledged their push is as much about Smith’s opponent as it is about Smith himself. Tom Swiss is the only other candidate running in the Democratic primary, and - as Davis pointed out - Swiss has held leadership positions in the local Republican Party.

“We want to make sure that we don’t elect a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Davis said.
Swiss has said he hasn't worked with the Republicans for several years.

If Smith wins the Democratic nomination and ends up resigning or is forced to resign, Democratic leaders would pick his replacement on the ballot for the general election.

But if Swiss wins, the ballot spot is his. Democrats could try to run an independent or third-party candidate against him, though.

Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller notes that House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose flyers boast that he cleaned up Springfield by impeaching former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was completely mum on the bribery charge.

There is, of course, a tricky political dimension to this arrest. Smith’s Democratic primary opponent, Tom Swiss, has been a Republican for years. Swiss is a former director of the Cook County Republican Party and is a white man running in a majority black district.

If Madigan called on Smith to resign, it would essentially have meant letting a Republican into his caucus. Some things transcend mere bribery arrests.

Madigan’s flyers state that he is “making sure crooked politicians who betray the public trust pay for their crimes,” and that “he wants to stamp out corruption by requiring prison sentences for elected officials and high-ranking state employees who commit serious ethics violations.”

Let’s be real. Madigan hated Blagojevich because Blagojevich was a rival for power and obstructed his legislative agenda. He is willing to tolerate Smith because Smith adds to the numbers of his Democratic caucus.

Regardless of the result on Tuesday, Tom Swiss will not be a state representative. The Democrats will run an independent candidate against him and beat him in November. Deservedly so. Swiss thought he could win this race because the district’s “low information” (i.e., ignorant and uneducated) voters wouldn’t figure out he was an ex-Republican. A man with contempt for the legal system vs. a man with contempt for his would-be constituents. Rejoice and be glad you don’t live in the 10th District.

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President, is available at Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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