Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gone, before he could even become a part of the political scenery?

I have to confess, as much as I like to believe I am more politically aware than the average person, I didn’t have a clue who Derrick Smith was until I learned Tuesday of his criminal charges.
SMITH: Does Tuesday matter much, anymore?

In fact, I doubt I’m alone. I suspect many people are going to read the headlines that say something along the lines of, “Smith accepts bribe” and wonder, “Who?!?”

SUCH A REACTION should not be surprising, since Smith had only been a state legislator since last year, and had never actually been on a ballot to be chosen for his government post.

Smith was the person who was chosen to replace Annazette Collins in the Illinois House of Representatives when she was picked to fill a vacancy in the Illinois Senate.

Because he was an electoral rookie (he used to work for the Illinois secretary of state’s office, but not in an elected position), he was receiving significant amounts of help to ensure that he won his first election on Tuesday.

The Chicago Tribune noted the fact that Democratic leadership interested in maintaining a Democratic Party majority in the Illinois Legislature pumped more campaign cash into the Smith campaign than any other legislative bid for office.

HIS DISTRICT ON Chicago’s West Side was something that was desired, not because anyone thought a Republican challenger would come along. What was more feared was the idea of an inexperienced candidate losing to some sort of activist who would think that bucking the system is the whole point of politics.

In short, a local version of Michelle Piszczor -- that young woman with no experience whatsoever who has gained some public attention for her “unmitigated gall” (heavy sarcasm most definitely intended) of running against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, himself.

So what happens now? Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith still manages to win his primary election next week.

There will be many people who vote who will go along with the knee-jerk reaction to back the establishment candidate, regardless of what charges are pending. The fact that Illinois Republican Party officials are trying to make an issue of this just won’t amount to much.

IT WILL COME across as the continued rantings of a batch of political gasbags.

Which is sad – the fact that we have a mentality in our society that would be able to overlook this kind of thing. And no, it’s not a Democratic Party thing – I have no doubt that a similar phenomenon would occur in a Republican primary held in the outer suburbs.

Except that federal prosecutors figured out long ago that they get more attention if they indict “Chicago political hacks” than if they pursue political people from DuPage County.

Which is why a political nobody (he hasn’t had time to establish a reputation yet) like Smith will get as his sole legacy that he got in trouble in what seems like such a stupid scheme.

PROSECUTORS SAY THAT Smith wrote a letter on his official legislative letterhead giving his support for a$50,000 state grant to a day care operator. In exchange, the day care person gave him $7,000 – cash!

Except that the day care person was actually working undercover with the FBI. It was a set-up. Smith now faces charges of bribery (as in accepting).

Smith may try to argue that he was framed. Yet too many political observers are going to retort that any politico worth his salt would have sensed how fishy the deal was and walked (no, ran) away.

I can’t help but wonder how Smith will try to blend into the background, considering that he’s now the freshman politico who got busted so soon.

HE MAY NEVER get the chance to recover.

Although I can’t feel too sorry for him, since I couldn’t help but notice the news reports of his initial court appearance on Tuesday. No bond posted. He gets to be a free man while the case is pending.

How many other people get such consideration, particularly if they face the potential of a decade in a federal prison?


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