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White: Don't judge me over Smith flub

In this photo taken March 27, 2012, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White listens to a question during an interview with the Associated Press in his Springfield, Ill. office. In the interview, White admits to mistakes in helping to appoint Derrick Smith, a state lawmaker who now stands accused of bribery, but he says voters should judge him on his performance in office. Republicans can bring it up in 2014 if they want, he says, but it would be a “cheap shot.” (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said it would be “a cheap shot” for Republicans to raise the issue of Derrick Smith’s $7,000 bribery case when White runs for re-election in two years.

White said voters should judge him on his performance as secretary of state, not his role as a ward committeeman on the West Side.

But that performance includes White’s decision to give Smith a state job in 2006, which eventually paid $88,000 a year, after the city of Chicago fired him amid allegations of misusing city equipment and employees from a state-financed program. White said he didn’t know about Smith’s past, despite stories about it at the time in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He was not arrested for that situation,” said White, who pleaded ignorance about the case because a criminal background check turned up nothing.

White spokesman Dave Druker later said Smith told his state employers he had been dismissed by the city over a “labor issue,” but that White staffers decided he was “a capable guy and to give him a second chance.”

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said Wednesday that any GOP candidate who challenges White will “make it an issue, and rightfully so, particularly because this guy had been canned before.”

“They were on notice that this guy played outside the lines,” Brady said. AP