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West Side Dems to field third-party candidate vs. Rep. Smith

Illinois Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, is seen on the House floor during session Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Smith has been largely absent from the capital since his March 13 arrest on a federal bribery charge. He was indicted on April 10, 2012 for allegedly accepting $7,000 in exchange for his support of a grant application. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

SPRINGFIELD – A group of West Side Democratic ward committeemen led by Secretary of State Jesse White has signed off on a plan to create a third political party and slate a candidate to challenge indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith this fall, a White aide said Monday.

The 10th District Unity Party will begin interviewing candidates next week. The third-party plan was triggered by Smith’s refusal to step down after he was indicted on federal bribery charges.

“They don’t think he can represent the people well because of this legal situation,” White spokesman Dave Druker said.

Creating a third political party will enable candidates who voted in the Democratic primary to run on the fall ballot, which they could not have done had they chosen an independent bid for the 10th House seat, Druker said.

The move came after Lance Tyson, a municipal bond lawyer who was chief of staff to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, said Sunday he’ll run against Smith.

Smith (D-Chicago) was accused of taking $7,000 in exchange for agreeing to write a letter to a state agency recommending what turned out to be a fictitious day-care operator in his district for a $50,000 grant.

Smith has said he’ll fight the charge.

Smith’s lawyer, Victor Henderson, declined to comment Monday.