SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says, if he knew then what he knows now, he would never have supported indicted former State Rep. Derrick Smith, and there would be no controversy about the fate of Smith’s former House seat.
Smith was appointed to an open seat in the Illinois House of Representatives in 2011, but just days before the March primary in 2012, he was arrested for allegedly agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for a grant in exchange for a $7,000 cash bribe.
Smith rose to power in the first place upon White’s political patronage. White is a Democratic committeeman in the area, and admits supporting Smith and helping him get appointed to the House.
“I did, but if I had known then what I know now, he would not have been that individual,” White said Monday in Springfield.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports
Despite his arrest, Smith won the Democratic primary in March, and remains on the ballot for the November election.
His House colleagues expelled him from the General Assembly during a special session day last month, but he remains in the general election race against another Democrat, Lance Tyson, who is running under the “Unity Party” banner.
White said he and his political organization are committed to making sure Smith doesn’t win the November election.
“We’re going to do all we can to keep him out. If you’ve been expelled from the House of Representatives, and now you’re attempting to go back – considering the fact you were arrested for taking a $7,000 bribe – I think that the advice that he is receiving is not good advice,” White said.
According to news reports, recent polls showed Smith had a huge 48-9 advantage over Tyson among registered West Side voters, despite the controversy. Although 43 percent of those surveyed were undecided.
What do we know about Tyson?
“He’s a lawyer,” White said. “And, of course, Derrick Smith needs a lawyer.”
White also said Tyson is “a gentleman who is highly skilled, a gentleman who is well-liked and highly-respected, who will not only take on the job, but will take on the responsibility that goes with it. And we’re supporting him, because we believe he is the right person.”
Tyson is also a onetime chief of staff for former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.