In Illinois, being under indictment apparently is no impediment to waging a winning election campaign.
Chicago state Rep. Derrick Smith was expelled in August from the Illinois House of Representatives, with legislators taking the action to make themselves look good after Smith made them look bad.
Smith, a Democrat, is facing federal criminal charges in connection with allegations that he accepted a $7,000 bribe in exchange for backing a grant application with the state of Illinois.
Smith hasn't had a lot to say publicly since his indictment or his expulsion. Perhaps actor Arnold Schwarzenegger said it for him best with his immortal movie phrase, "I'll be back."
It's looking more and more like Smith will be back.
The polling firm "We Ask America" recently surveyed 556 voters in Smith's heavily Democratic, heavily minority district and found Smith is leading his third-party challenger by a 48 percent to 9 percent margin. The poll's margin of error is just plus or minus 4.15 percent.
So it would appear that Smith is pretty well situated to return to the House only a few months after he was expelled.
It may seem odd, but expelled legislators are permitted to return to the body from which they were ousted if the voters approve it.
What is going on here?
It's a combination of voter ignorance or apathy, party loyalty and party politics.
Smith is a Democrat in a Democratic-controlled House, and party leaders treat fellow party members with kid gloves because they need their votes.
Smith was indicted before the March primary, but that didn't stop party leaders from backing him to the hilt in a contested election against a Democratic opponent who was perceived, perhaps correctly, as more Republican than Democratic.
But immediately after Smith won the primary election, party leaders, including his mentor, Secretary of State Jesse White, urged Smith to step down from the ticket so another less embarrassing Democrat could take his place.
Smith refused — for principled reasons by the shoddy standards of politicians' principles. He needs the income from his legislative job. More important, it's to his benefit to wait until after he's convicted to resign so his lawyers can argue to the court that Smith's resignation is proof of his remorse and shows why he deserves a lenient sentence.
But the plot lines keep turning.
Unhappy with Smith, Democrats are running a third-party candidate, Lance Tyson of the 10th District Unity Party Ticket. The Unity Party is really a vehicle for party bigwigs to defeat Smith.
But it's not happening.
Voters either haven't got the message or have rejected the message. In District 10, they vote Democratic no matter what and Smith is the Democratic candidate.
Further, frustrated power brokers don't want to push voters too hard on the question of Smith's future. They're prepared to live with him if they have to because they still have his vote, however embarrassing it may be.
That's why Speaker Michael Madigan, who controls the body that ousted Smith, and Cook County Board Chairwoman Toni Preckwinkle, who's dropped broad hints about running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in March 2014, say publicly that they are neutral. Privately, they undoubtedly would prefer he disappear, but politics the way it's practiced in Illinois sometimes requires compromise on things that shouldn't be compromised, like honesty and ethics in government.
That's one of the reasons the state of Illinois is so compromised.