"It's a terrible indictment" of the local political culture, said
Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches at University of
Illinois at Chicago. "There is still a patronage-based political
army on the West Side of Chicago."
Political experts say all three candidates are either guaranteed
victory or heavily favored to win.
The candidates include Isaac "Ike" Carothers, a former Chicago
alderman who was sentenced to 28 months for bribery and tax fraud,
and is now running for commissioner of the Cook County Board. He was
released from prison in late 2011.
Derrick Smith, a state representative, was expelled by the Illinois
House in 2012 after he was charged with taking a $7,000 bribe, but
then won his seat back and is now running for re-election. His trial
date has been set for the spring.
A third candidate, state Representative La Shawn K. Ford, has been
charged with bank fraud for alleged actions before he was elected a
legislator in 2006. He is running unopposed in his primary.
Smith and Ford have pleaded not guilty. Carothers, whose conviction
bars him from running again for his old job of alderman, said he is
running for county commissioner because he wants to continue in
"I believe in a God that believes in second chances and I hope that
the voters in this district will give me a second chance," Carothers
said in a televised interview in December.
Also going before voters in Tuesday's primary are the Republican
candidates vying to take on Governor Pat Quinn in the November
election. In 2009, Quinn replaced fellow Democrat Rod Blagojevich,
who was removed from office and is serving a 14-year sentence for
Businessman Bruce Rauner, who has pumped $6 million of his own money
into the race so far, is leading the crowded Republican field.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
Corruption is nothing new in Illinois.
Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan, was convicted of
racketeering and served five years in federal prison.
[to top of second column]
Chicago, the state's largest city, ranked first in the nation in
public corruption over the past three decades and has had 1,531
public corruption convictions since 1976, according to a 2012
analysis of U.S. Department of Justice statistics.
Candidates with criminal backgrounds and ethical problems typically
do not have a strong track record of winning in the state.
Last year, former U.S. Representative Mel Reynolds, who had been
convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker, lost a bid
for the U.S. House seat of Jesse Jackson Jr., who had resigned
before pleading guilty to fraud charges.
Carothers' father, former Chicago alderman William Carothers, also
went to prison for corruption.
Ahead of Tuesday's vote, both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have urged voters not to
back the younger Carothers. They have endorsed another candidate,
attorney Blake Sercye.
But both Smith and Ford have the backing of powerful state House
Speaker Michael Madigan.
"We're backing the incumbents," said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown,
adding that both Smith and Ford should be considered innocent until
"That's how America works," he said.
(Editing by Edith Honan and Mohammad Zargham)
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