In most places, it's not easy to win an election while under indictment. In Chicago, it's no problem.
Two weeks ago, Chicago-area state Rep. Derrick Smith was charged with bribery in connection with a $7,000 payoff for helping to get a day-care center a state contract.
On Tuesday, Smith, a Democrat and protege of Secretary of State Jesse White, easily won renomination for a two-year term in the Illinois House of Representatives.
There was considerable political maneuvering in the background, but the bottom line is that the district's mostly black voters preferred Smith to Tom Swiss, a white Republican-turned-Democrat, by a 77 percent to 23 percent margin.
The voting results, however, do not relieve Democratic Party leaders of a serious embarrassment. They now have to force Smith's resignation and get a reliable Democrat, meaning a Democrat who will vote as House Speaker Michael Madigan tells him to vote, in his place.
That's why Secretary of State White Wednesday demanded that Smith resign from the Illinois House, and that's also why House Republicans are demanding an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the federal bribery indictment. Gov. Pat Quinn even joined in, suggesting Smith cannot effectively represent his district given his ongoing legal problems.
The Illinois General Assembly is filled with marginal characters who seek to feather their own nests. So it's not Smith's questionable character that's really the problem for many of his colleagues. The problem is that Smith's questionable character resulted in a federal indictment right in the middle of an election year in which voters are described as angry.
That may send voters the right message, but it's not the message legislators want to send.
For his part, Smith is not talking about his future plans. It'll be hard for him to hang on to his current job, but probably not so hard to land another spot somewhere on the public payroll. He worked for White before being appointed to fill a vacant House seat, and there's usually a place somewhere for party loyalists who do what they're told.