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West Side Democrats Choose Third Party Challenger To Indicted Dem

By Samantha Abernethy in News on May 26, 2012 6:00PM

Lance Tyson is the new candidate for the 10th District Unity Party — that's just like the Democratic Party except state Rep. Derrick Smith isn't invited. A group of West Side Democrats have chosen the challenger to take on Smith in the election this fall, as Smith has refused to step down from his post or allow his name to be taken off the ballot.

Smith was arrested a week before the March primaries on federal bribery charges. Authorities said Smith took $7,000 in cash in exchange for writing a letter on behalf of a daycare center that he believed was seeking a $50,000 state grant. The conversations with a government informant were allegedly caught on tape.

In the week leading up to the election, Democrats encouraged voters to back Smith despite his arrest because he was facing a faux-Dem in the primary. Smith won with more than 70 percent of the vote. After the primary, though, Democrats were quick to call for his resignation. Smith refused, then didn't go to work. Fellow legislators, including Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), told him to either show up to work or give up the job.

The 10th District Unity Party formed last week and invited candidates to fill out a questionnaire to be their candidate to take on Smith. The field was narrowed to six, including Ervin's girlfriend, and Tyson came out on top. Tyson is a municipal bond lawyer who was chief of staff to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

The "unity party" might not be so united, though. WBEZ reports only five of the nine Democratic committeemen supported Tyson, and Ervin wasn't one of them.

His legal issues didn't stop Smith from distributing legislative scholarships, the ones that came from the controversial program that was eliminated this week after research showed the scholarships were handed out inappropriately. Legislators may dole out the money until September. Gov. Quinn used Smith's move as evidence the program was always corrupt.