Exactly a week after being arrested on charges of accepting a bribe, state Rep. Derrick Smith (10th) kept hold of his house legislative seat in Tuesday’s primary, defeating a challenger who had switched parties to run against him. But there are murmurs that Smith may drop out of the general election race.
Smith was accused by the FBI of accepting a $7,000 bribe to write a letter of recommendation for a grant for a fake day care center. Still, he won the seat handily, taking home 77 percent of the vote to Tom Swiss’ 23 percent.
Outside an election night gathering at Mahoney’s, 551 N. Ogden Ave., Swiss said he was done in by the election’s historically low voter turnout.
“It just killed me,” he said. “If you look at the votes in a low-turnout election, you have two types of people that vote – people who have jobs in government and ideologues. Just speaking to people walking out of the polls, some voters told our people they would rather vote for a crook than someone that had worked for Republicans.”
Swiss only won one ward throughout the entire 10th District, a little sliver of the 26th Ward that had only 75 total votes.
As Smith faces trial, however, it’s unclear if he’ll keep the seat. There’s talk that he’ll step down from the seat before November’s general election, which would allow Democratic committeemen in the 10th District to appoint someone else to run in his place.
In that situation, 27th Ward Committeeman and Secretary of State Jesse White would have the most say on who gets the seat, just as he did when Smith was nominated to replace Annazette Collins in the post last spring.
Smith was a part White’s and Ald. Walter Burnett’s 27th Ward organization before getting nominated for the 10th District seat, having formerly served as the ward’s head of streets and sanitation. White said he was extremely disappointed, but the decision to stay in the seat or step down is all Smith’s.
“He has to make the decision about where he will go from here,” White said. “The important thing is that the seat will remain in the Democratic column. The people of his district spoke. That’s what they wanted to occur, and he won by an overwhelming number of votes. At the same time, I don’t condone, I have never condoned and will not condone that kind of activity.”
When asked if he had any ideas who he’d like to see in the seat if Smith does step down, White demurred.
“I don’t have anyone in mind right now,” he said.
No Republicans ran for the seat in the primary in the heavily Democratic district, so whoever ends up with the nomination is a shoo-in for the seat. Republicans, however, still have the option of nominating someone to run in the general election if they choose.