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U.S. Rep. Danny Davis on his neutrality in Derrick Smith's race: "He hasn't been convicted of anything"

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Derrick Smith.jpg
(AP/Seth Perlman)
Former state Rep. Derrick Smith may be under indictment and expelled from the House, but U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is among those staying neutral in Smith's race against third-party rival Lance Tyson.


Just about everybody has an opinion about former state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) after his federal bribery indictment and historic expulsion from the Illinois House.

But in Smith's bid to regain his House seat, several big movers and shakers have stayed on the sidelines in his race against third-party rival, Lance Tyson, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.).

Smith is a creature of Secretary of State Jesse White's political organization, yet White now is pushing for his defeat and siding with Tyson. So is Gov. Pat Quinn.

But Davis is neutral on Smith's candidacy, and here's why.

"I mean, he's not been convicted of anything yet. And who knows: He may not get convicted," Davis said of Smith, who faces a federal bribery charge for allegedly accepting $7,000 from an undercover FBI informant.

"Now, if a person is tried, does not get convicted, then his reputation has been ruined. His life has been ruined. And I just decided, well, I'm going to let the voters make that decision," Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times after a campaign swing in Will County to help tout Democrat Bill Foster's congressional bid.

"He hasn't been convicted of anything. I mean, what's the point of us talking about this, 'you're innocent until you're proven guilty,' if we don't act like it?" Davis continued. "So, we have to wait until a court of law determines his innocence or guilt."

"It's in my congressional district, but I don't vote in that election," Davis said. "So I decided, you know, whatever the people decided, that's what I will work with and who I will work with."

Beyond Davis, others who have remained neutral or opted not to endorse Tyson include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said Smith shouldn't be elected but wouldn't endorse Tyson; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

As a candidate, Smith has been nearly invisible, showing up for some selectively-targeted radio programs and WLS-TV but avoiding contact with most of the media.

For almost two weeks, the Chicago Sun-Times has sought to interview Smith, but that request was ignored, with one high-level Smith representative initially telling the newspaper that if it was "nice," access would be granted. No interview opportunity arose.

The House voted overwhelmingly to expel Smith last August, but that move didn't preclude him from being on Tuesday's ballot. Under the state Constitution, he can't be expelled again on the same charge if he defeats Tyson.

State Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove) introduced a constitutional amendment earlier this fall that would undo that constitutional provision, but the legislation won't be acted on before this session of the General Assembly expires.

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