UPDATED 05/24/12 8:12 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Democratic Ward Committeemen in the 10th state House District have picked a onetime aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger to mount a third-party challenge against indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith in November.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, the group led by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White med Wednesday. They picked Lance Tyson, a onetime chief of staff for Stroger.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports
Tyson will be running under the banner of the 10th District Unity Party, formed by the committeemen after Smith refused to step down despite facing a bribery charge.
Tyson will have to submit 1,500 signatures to get on the ballot.
Initially, it appeared another of the contenders, Melissa Conyears, would be chosen. But it was learned that she is the girlfriend of Committeeman and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who is quoted as saying he may support Tyson, but is refusing to endorse him at this time.
Smith pleaded not guilty late last month to charges that he took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for his endorsement of what he thought was a daycare center’s state grant application. The daycare center itself was real, but the owner Smith was allegedly trying to help was fake, part of a sting by the FBI.
Smith says the FBI used “shenanigans” to build its case and pressure people to “say bad things about me.”
On March 2, Smith provided the aide with an official letter of support for the daycare owner to obtain a $50,000 Early Childhood Construction Grant from the state’s Capital Development Board. In return, during a recorded meeting, the aide gave Smith $7,000 in cash, purportedly from the fictional daycare owner, according to federal prosecutors.
Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson, had harsh words for federal agents for not revealing the full criminal background of a government informant when prosecutors asked a judge to allow the informant to wear a wire to record Smith’s conversations.
In addition to the indictment, an Illinois House Panel is considering whether to seek disciplinary action against Smith, such as a formal reprimand or removal from office. Smith has refused to testify under oath before the panel.
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