Barack's going to win. There aren't any statewide races. All the countywide races will be won by Democrats.
But there is one race that will likely be close that I hope my neighbors will pay attention to: the race for state representative in the 10th district. (The district includes parts of West Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Garfield Park and Humboldt Park - mostly in the West Side. This is a district map.)
The Democratic nominee is Derrick Smith, a nice man who allegedly accepted a $7,000 cash bribe which triggered a federal indictment and then expulsion from the Illinois House. That doesn't happen very often.
His challenger is running on the 10th District Unity Party ticket and is named Lance Tyson. He's a lifelong Democrat as well, and decided to run after most of the Democratic elected officials in the area created a new political party just for the purpose of running someone against Mr. Smith (who, after winning the primary back in March, has chosen not to drop out of the race).
I'm voting for Lance Tyson and I hope he wins.
The challenge will be to make voters aware during a time of fascination with the presidential election and the many tight congressional races in the Chicago suburbs that there is a contested race for state representative and that there is a real risk of electing a man who has been expelled from the House.
I do take the presumption of innocence seriously, and I hope Mr. Smith beats the charges. I am aware that convicting politicians can be a source of prestige and a resume-builder for federal prosecutors who might want to run for office themselves some day, and that some prosectors can get overzealous in the pursuit of elected officials. Just because the US Attorney's office indicts someone doesn't make them guilty. I'm sure there's a sense by some of pushback against prosecutors who feel their time and attention ought to be spent on indicting gangbangers and drug dealers instead of trying to entrap some politicians.
I think those who find that pushback attractive should reconsider voting for Mr. Smith to send a message against law enforcement, as our state (and especially the poorer areas of the district on the West Side) particularly need able and dedicated politicians working constantly to improve our government and our economy.
There is no way that anyone facing a federal indictment can devote the time and attention to serving as a state legislator. It's just impossible to put in the time and mental energy to help improve our state when you're a defendant in a criminal trial. And we can't afford a legislator who isn't fully engaged in the job. As a lobbyist, I see the impact each individual politician can have to improve our economy and make life better for people. Lance Tyson can have that impact in a way that Derrick Smith just can't while on trial for public corruption charges.
I hope you'll join me in spreading the word about this race to Chicagoans you know and ask them to vote for Lance Tyson. If people pay attention, we can avoid the indignity of electing someone who has been expelled from the House. If people don't pay attention, they might just vote for the Democratic nominee and not realize the third party candidate is the right choice. That would be a shame.