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Fresh on the heels of his Tuesday reelection, state Rep. Derrick Smith on Thursday made his first significant public comments since he was indicted on a federal bribery charge and subsequently ousted from the statehouse.
Smith, a Chicago Democrat, thanked the voters of the state's 10th legislative district for their support during a Tuesday press conference and said he is "a new man."
"I know that there are a lot of people in the media and elsewhere [who] are saying that I only received votes because I am a Democrat," Smith said, as reported by CBS Chicago. "I think that information is misinformed and insulting to the people of the district."
Smith managed to win a resounding 63 percent of the vote in the statehouse race over Independent candidate Lance Tyson, who had been endorsed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Secretary of State Jesse White and other influential Democratic leaders.
The representative was expelled by his colleagues in the state House of Representatives in August in the first such vote in over a century after he was arrested this spring for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe to write an official letter of support for a fictional daycare center he believed was seeking a state grant.
But Smith didn't address the bribery allegation Tuesday. Instead, he vowed to "devote all my time in making sure to do what I have to do to ensure the constituents of the 10th District get everything they deserve," ABC Chicago reports.
Victor Henderson, Smith's attorney, described his client as an independent trailblazer that Springfield needs. Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
"There were a lot of ministers who didn’t want Martin Luther King up here in the '60s because he said he was causing problems," Henderson said, according to WBEZ. "Look what good he did. People wanted Nelson Mandela to be quiet. People wanted Jesus to be quiet."
Smith's reelection means that his previous expulsion from the statehouse will not stick, unless he is convicted.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Jim Sacia commented Thursday that Smith's reelection made Illinois a "national laughingstock," according to the Chicago Tribune. He is hoping to find another means to remove him from office.