Lance Tyson's on the phone—but no word from Derrick Smith | Bleader

Lance Tyson's on the phone—but no word from Derrick Smith


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Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media
  • Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media
  • Lance Tyson
Still no word from Derrick Smith, who promised to call me back in "two minutes" during a phone conversation we had about a month ago.

But I did get a call from Lance Tyson, the other candidate in the race for the Tenth legislative district, basically saying: Hey, man, you keep writing about Derrick—when are you going to show some love for me?

Fair enough. So, here goes . . .

But first—a few more things about Smith.

As you recall, he's the Democratic candidate for state representative who's facing criminal charges for allegedly taking a $7,000 bribe from an undercover mole pretending to want a state grant to operate a day care center.

It's been an eventful year for Smith. He got busted on the bribery thing. Then he won the Democratic primary. Then his fellow state legislators voted to expel him from the General Assembly. And then he decided—what the hell, I'm running for reelection anyway!

Instead of watching Smith waltz to victory running unopposed—there are no Republican or Green candidates in the race—the local Democratic ward bosses slated Tyson to run as a third-party candidate.

If only because everyone who's not a nihilist would agree that it would be hugely embarrassing, at the very least, to watch Smith reclaim his old state house seat.

Actually, even nihilists might find it embarrassing.

Here's everything you need to know but were afraid to ask about the subject.

Anyway, Tyson and I had a wonderful conversation. Turns out he loves talking almost much as I do—as good a reason as any to elect him to office.

He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. Graduated from Lake Forest College, where he was the quarterback on a 1-8 football team. "One and eight, baby," he says.

At least he has a sense of humor about it.

After getting his law degree, he went to work for the Daley administration as a legislative counsel, which means he essentially acted as a lawyer for the city in matters before the General Assembly. His proudest achievement—which he mentions several times—is that he worked with then state senator Barack Obama to help pass the Enterprise Zone Act, which gives tax breaks to businesses that relocate into poor communities.

I do not blame Tyson for frequently mentioning his connection to Obama. If I were Tyson, I'd put it on a T-shirt that I'd wear every day, if only to remind voters that, yes, I'm a Democrat, even though I'm temporarily running on this thing called the Unity Party. And, more to the point—yes, I love Barack Obama!

He also worked as chief of staff for former Cook County board president Todd Stroger. But only for "one year and a half" at the start of Stroger's tenure. (In other words, don't blame him for the Stroger meltdown.) For the last few years, he's been making a living as a bond lawyer, specializing in municipal financing.

Big question left over from my first story on the subject: Does Tyson live in the district?

The answer? Well, it's complicated . . .

For the last ten or so years, he's lived in the same building in North Lawndale, which used to be in the Tenth legislative district until that district's boundaries were changed earlier this year.

Since the redistricting, his home now lies just outside the district's boundaries. But state election law allows candidates to run in a district from which they've been recently redistricted, provided they move back into said district after getting elected.

Does anybody follow that?

If not, don't sweat it. The bottom line is that his residency is a nonissue, which, of course, won't stop Smith from raising it.

At the very least, Tyson's every bit as much a west-sider as Smith, who's not a west-sider at all, having grown up in Cabrini-Green.

By the way, did I tell you I'm friends with one of Smith's grammar school teachers? Here, read all about that . . .

If Tyson wins, he says he'll immediately introduce a bill to give tax credits to companies that hire ex-offenders. "The reality is that 70 percent of the males who live in the two main zip codes in this district are ex-offenders," says Tyson. "I believe we should do what we can to help them become productive citizens."

In other words, he's a serious candidate in an election that Smith has turned into a joke.

Any last thoughts, Mr. Tyson?

"A vote for my opponent is vote for no representation. How can he work with the legislators who expelled him? We need to make sure we don't throw our vote away."

That about sums it up . . .


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