Despite a federal indictment on bribery charges and being kicked out of the Illinois General Assembly in August, former state Rep. Derrick Smith may be elected to his old seat today in Illinois’ 10th House district.
Across the 10th state House district today, which loosely includes the Garfield Park and West Town neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side but also stretches near the lakefront, ripped apart signs can be found that state Derrick Smith is “Wanted” for “Disgracing the Democratic Party” and “Crimes Against the Residents of the 10th District” and “Federal Bribery.”
Yet support appears lukewarm for Lance Tyson, the 10th District Unity Party candidate and former chief of staff for Cook County President Todd Stroger. Tyson has billed himself as the “real Democrat”
For example, PI caught up with Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) at a polling place in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Fioretti is also the 2nd Ward Democratic Committeeman and part of a coterie of West Side Democrats, including Secretary of State Jesse White, who agreed to “unify” their support behind Tyson.
But Fioretti said Tyson’s get out the vote efforts left something to be desired.
“He was a little slow to come out there for the vote,” Fioretti says. “The day he was nominated by the Democratic committeemen he should have been out there knocking on doors and not wasting any time waiting for things to happen. Races aren’t made by committeemen or Democratic power houses.”
Fioretti said he maintained his support of Tyson, but added that “The issue there is a lot more complex than what people say.” Smith had not yet gone to trial, Fioretti pointed out, though “he’s on tape,” the aldermen noted, for apparently accepting a bribe.
Instead of talking up efforts he made on behalf of Tyson, Fioretti spoke of his work to help try and re-elect President Barack Obama. “I have been campaigning and sending people to various states including Wisconsin and Iowa for the last couple of weeks,” Fioretti says.
Here is video that has more of the alderman’s thoughts on the Smith-Tyson race, Obama’s re-election effort and a ballot referendum dealing with public employee pension benefits:
Chris Barrett, a volunteer poll monitor for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), showed a pro-Tyson leaflet he gave voters before they went to the polls juxtaposing an image of Tyson with Obama. Barrett admits, “I didn’t know I’d be handing this stuff out because I really don’t know about [Tyson].”
Barrett said he has been at a Ukrainian Village polling place since 7 a.m. urging passers-by to vote. He says that most voters he encountered were unaware of the Smith-Tyson tilt.
Also, Barrett said, a ward remap made official this summer changed voters polling places and that "people are absolutely going to the wrong polls.” But the Chicago Board of Elections has been “pretty good” about directing people on the phone to their correct polling places, he added.
PI interviewed several voters this morning, most of whom said they were voting for Obama, but had also educated themselves about down ballot races and municipal referenda.
Several people we interviewed said they voted against a state referendum to amend the Illinois constitution so that any increase in public employee pension benefits would need 3/5 approval from the Illinois General Assembly or local governing bodies. It is unclear how, if at all, such an amendment addresses the state’s pension funding crisis.
“From everything that I understood, it’s sort of a fluff idea,” said Jordana Cohen, a Ukrainian Village voter. “It’s not actually going to do anything to fill the budget deficit at all.”
All but one voter interviewed stated that they had voted for Tyson. The one acknowledged Smith voter declined to explain their vote.
For some of these voters the issues behind the 10th district race were not that complicated. Asked why she voted for Tyson, Cohen responded, “Um, Because Derrick Smith is indicted.”