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Derrick Smith Arrested: Rahm Emanuel Says Indicted State Rep Should Not Be On Fall Ballot

Posted: 03/26/2012 1:26 pm Updated: 03/26/2012 1:27 pm

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday joined a growing chorus of influential Chicago Democrats speaking out against state Rep. Derrick Smith, who resoundingly weathered a primary challenge last week despite being indicted on a federal corruption charge.

"I do not think -- while Mr. Smith won the primary -- that his name should be on the ballot in November," the mayor said Friday at a news conference pertaining to an unrelated matter, Fox Chicago reports. "He's already shown a violation of the code of conduct that comes with the honor of serving the public."

Smith was arrested March 13 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.

A coalition of Chicago Democrats rallied behind Smith and urged for voters to re-elect him in a rally held a matter of days before the state primary. Smith proceeded to receive 77 percent of the vote in defeating his Democratic primary challenger Tom Swiss, who was criticized by his opponents given his past role as a chairman of the Cook County Republican party.

"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," U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said of Swiss as he urged voters to support Smith instead.

Smith's re-election in the primary prompted state Republican leaders to call for a special committee to investigate him. Fox Chicago reports that a bipartisan committee, including three individuals appointed each by House Minority Leader Tom Cross and House Speaker Michael Madigan, on the matter is due to convene Tuesday.

Cross called Smith's re-election "pretty astonishing" considering the bribery charge.

"I certainly am not going to speak for those voters," Cross told Fox. "I hope that people have not gotten to the point in this state that they find this type of behavior acceptable."

Democrats Gov. Pat Quinn, Secretary of State Jesse White and even Davis, who defended Smith as recently as last week, have all now called for his resignation. Davis explained that the reason he rallied behind Smith after the charges was because he wanted a real Democrat to take the seat -- not Swiss.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson explained to the Chicago Tribune that the charges Smith faces represent a "cloud hanging over" him.

Meanwhile, White, who largely orchestrated Smith's initial appointment to the state House, said his one-time protegee's district "would be much better served if Derrick were to step down," CBS Chicago reports. Smith formerly worked as White's office's deputy director.

Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax blog lashed out on the topic of White's apparent change of heart on Smith in a searing Sunday Chicago Sun-Times editorial. Miller called White's involvement with Smith as "no doubt the biggest mistake White has made in his decades-long political career:"

Smith was an embarrassment even before he was arrested. He was in over his head and obviously lacking in skills. He was White’s hack, and everybody knew it. But at least Smith looked like a clean embarrassment. Now, he’s a dangerous embarrassment facing a federal felony charge.

Smith has kept quiet since his primary win, the Associated Press reports. Should the House investigative panel decide to pursue further action against him, a disciplinary committee will take the matter from there and consider penalties such as a reprimand, censure or expulsion.

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |