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Miller: More weird happenings in Illinois politics

Updated: October 25, 2012 6:13AM



I have two poll results to tell you about — one involving an alleged criminal, the other a proven liar.

Expelled state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) is leading his only opponent by 38 points and is close to the 50 percent he will need to reclaim his House seat.

A poll of 556 likely voters conducted Sept. 12 by We Ask America shows Smith crushing third-party candidate Lance Tyson by 48 percent to 9 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.15 percent.

Smith was expelled from the House in August, months after his federal indictment for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe. He’s still on the ballot, though, and faces Lance Tyson, a Democrat, who was picked to run on a third party by the district’s Democratic ward committeemen.

Tyson loaned his campaign more than $26,000 last week after the poll results were revealed. That’s most of what he has raised so far.

Smith reported having almost $58,000 in the bank at the end of June. He has raised no money since then but still has enough to do some mailers and fliers, if he hasn’t already spent his cash on legal expenses.

If Smith regains his seat in November, the Illinois Constitution forbids the House from expelling him for the same reason next year. The House would either have to come up with a new reason unrelated to his indictment or suffer the indignity of allowing Smith as a member while he’s tried for bribery.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Carol Marin reported recently that House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were neutral in the Smith race. Madigan’s spokesman told me that his boss is neutral because two Democrats are running against each other.

Illinois is grand, isn’t it? Sheesh.

Since Madigan refuses to help, Tyson will likely need a big assist from Secretary of State Jesse White, who was responsible for putting Smith in the House in the first place.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) leads his Republican opponent by eight points. But the poll was taken before Julie Bigham Eggers (R-Columbia) was caught in a major gaffe and some big lies that could cost her dearly.

The We Ask America poll taken Sept. 11 has Costello leading Eggers 48 percent to 40 percent. The poll of 756 likely voters had a margin of error of plus/minus 3.55 percent.

Eggers told the Belleville News Democrat that the “No. 1 reason” why she ran for the House “was for the health care because it has pretty good health care.”

Eggers later announced that she wouldn’t sign up for the legislative health insurance plan or the pension plan and wouldn’t even accept her salary and challenged Costello to do the same. But the damage already was done.

And it’s tough to believe that she’ll follow through on those promises because she has been caught before in some bizarre lies.

Eggers repeatedly has claimed in her campaign that she’s a “lifelong southern Illinoisan.” But the Belleville News-Democrat found out that she lived in Missouri for 10 years. When pressed, Eggers told the paper she lived out of state for “I don’t know, a couple years.”

The House Democrats then unearthed video of Eggers speaking at an event and claiming she got her law degree at the same time as her MBA degree.

“That’s extremely hard,” Eggers said about getting the two degrees at the same time. “And any of these judges running up around here will tell you, that’s pretty much something you don’t want to do.”

Trouble is, Eggers dropped out of law school after a year.

Hey, there’s no shame in dropping out of law school. Just don’t claim that you obtained a law degree when you did not.

Costello, the son of retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-12th), now is using the Eggers video in a new TV commercial.

“I will always tell you the truth,” Eggers says in the full video.

Except when she’s not.

Eggers has reported that Anne Diaz Griffin contributed $5,000 to her campaign fund. Griffin’s husband donated another $5,000.

Anne Griffin is a wealthy Chicagoan who is bankrolling a new online startup called “Reboot Illinois,” which, among other things, is pushing for stronger ethics reforms in state government.

Only in Illinois would a “reformer” bankroll somebody like Eggers.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.



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