Gov. Pat Quinn and other leading Democrats called today for the resignation of a state lawmaker from Chicago who won a House primary one week after being arrested on federal bribery charges.
The growing pressure on state Rep. Derrick Smith contrasts with the silence from Democratic leaders who avoided such criticism in the days after the arrest, when it might have affected his primary race.
Some, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, encouraged voters to support Smith to ensure the West Side seat stays in Democratic hands. But that changed the day after his easy victory over Tom Swiss, a former Cook County Republican Party official.
Now Democratic leaders are moving to oust Smith and pick a replacement to run in the November general election.
Smith was selected to fill a House vacancy while he was working for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who called today for Smith's resignation.
"The allegations in the charge against him convey unacceptable conduct, making it extremely difficult to represent the citizens of the district," White said. "The public would be much better served if Derrick were to step down."
White issued a statement the day of Smith's arrest saying he was disappointed, but did not urge the lawmaker's resignation at that time.
Quinn likewise refused to call for Smith's resignation before the election. But in Brussels today on a trade mission, he changed his tune.
"The governor believes Rep. Smith should resign” because the charge represents a “cloud hanging over” him, said Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.
Smith hasn't commented publicly since he was charged a week ago with accepting a $7,000 cash bribe in return for supporting a bid for a state grant. He was snared in an undercover FBI sting that included an audio recording of Smith allegedly accepting the bribe.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Illinois Democratic Party chairman, poured more than $60,000 into the race before Smith's arrest and has declined to comment on his situation.
Davis said while he asked voters to cast their ballots for Smith, it was about ensuring the seat stayed in Democrat control and was not a show of support for Smith. Davis said Smith should not appear on the November ballot given the ethical cloud he now faces.
"I was glad to see Derrick win the election, but I think in reality one can say that Democrats won the election," Davis said. "I don't think they were necessarily voting for Derrick, but I think they were saying 'Democrat, Democrat, Democrat.'"
"It's not just about the man, but it's also about, as Ossie Davis said, the plan," Davis said. "So I think people were intelligent enough, they were wise enough, they understood enough that they wanted to give themselves another chances to get a good, solid Democrat to represent them."
If Smith quits, a successor would be chosen by a weighted vote of the Democratic Party committeemen whose wards included precincts in the state House district. The weight is based on how many Democratic ballots were cast in Tuesday’s primary for each ward.
“I think, under these circumstances, it would be very uncomfortable for Derrick to stay," said Burnett. "He needs to do what is best for himself."
House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego and several of his Republican colleagues called for a special House investigative committee into Smith’s alleged bribery. The move triggered an automatic review under House rules that call for Democrats and Republicans to each appoint three members, said Cross spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki Jimenez.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times