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Chicago Democrats For Derrick Smith: Lawmakers Tell Voters To Elect Recently Arrested State Rep

Posted: 03/19/2012 2:08 pm Updated: 03/19/2012 5:20 pm

A coalition of West Side Chicago Democrats rallied on Sunday behind state Rep. Derrick Smith, the lawmaker who was arrested last week on the federal charge that he accepted a bribe.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis led the group, the West Side Black Elected Officials, in urging primary voters to re-elect Smith despite the controversy.

"We know that our colleague is charged with criminal activity," Davis said, according to WBEZ. "But we also know that a charge is not a conviction."

Should Smith not be re-elected Tuesday, the group argued, a Republican "wolf in sheep's clothing" -- Smith's primary challenger Tom Swiss -- stands to take his place.

"There's nothing wrong with being a Republican, except that if people are going to vote for a Republican, they ought to know they're voting for a Republican," Davis continued, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Other elected officials at the rally included Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele.

Smith was arrested last week for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe from a fictional daycare center in return for writing an official letter of support for its bid for a $50,000 state grant. According to the criminal complaint, the informant working with the FBI delivered an envelope filled with the cash to Smith, which he accepted earlier this month.

Powerful Illinois House speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan has not yet addressed Smith's arrest, the Associated Press reports. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the AP that "it's all under review."

The lack of comment from Madigan's camp was blasted by state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady as avoiding the issue because "I guess this time it isn't politically convenient," according to the AP.

"After all the scandal we have been through in Illinois, this should be a no-brainer for Madigan to call for the resignation of Derrick Smith," Brady continued.

The race presents a significant dilemma for voters in the state's 10th state House district as Swiss, Smith's opponent, is a former director of the Chicago Republican Party. Swiss, who is white, has also received criticism over a bizarre campaign billboard featuring his name next to an image of black construction worker.

Smith made no comment on his arrest Saturday as he rushed out from a court appearance, ABC Chicago reports.

Apparently absent from the Sunday rally in support of Smith was State Sen. Annazette Collins, who previously held Smith's state House seat before she was appointed to replace former State Sen. Rickey Hendon last year. Collins is, herself, embroiled in a heated primary battle with former Chicago mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins amid allegations that she abused the controversial state legislative scholarship program.

Check out other key local primary races in HuffPost Chicago's primary election guide:
U.S. House, 2nd: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) vs. Debbie Halvorson (D)
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Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. faces in challenger (and former one-term congresswoman) Debbie Halvorson what many are calling his first "real primary challenge." The New York Times reports that Jackson has rarely exerted much effort on the campaign trail as his "campaigns have often seemed more like a formality than a fight." This time around, even as polls continue to show Jackson holding a sizable lead, Halvorson has come out fighting, most recently accusing the congressman of "lying" about her voting record -- which Jackson's camp has described as "like a conservative Republican."
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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |