Near West neighborhood leader to hold Derrick Smith's House seat
Chicago cop Eddie Winters will take expelled rep’s place until election
08/24/2012 4:40 PM
Just a week after the Illinois House kicked disgraced state Rep. Derrick Smith out of his 10th District House seat, Democratic committeemen have picked a temporary replacement: Near West Side neighborhood leader Eddie Winters.
A Chicago cop who’s unsuccessfully run for the 10th District seat twice, Winters was picked Friday by committeemen to fill out the remainder of Smith’s term. But Winters won’t hold the seat for long — he’ll be replaced in January by the winner of November’s election for the seat.
That race is between Smith, who’s still on the ballot despite being tossed from the House, and Lance Tyson, Todd Stroger’s former chief of staff. Tyson was hand-picked earlier this year by Democratic committeemen to take on Smith after the embattled state rep refused to step down.
But since Tyson and the committeemen needed to create a third party to take on Smith, Tyson’s not technically a Democrat. Because Illinois law requires Democrats to fill Smith’s seat with another Democrat, they needed to find an alternative.
So they went with Winters, their second choice when they nominated Tyson. Committeeman Jason Ervin’s girlfriend, Melissa Conyears, was also considered, but in the end the committeemen’s choice was “pretty much unanimous,” according to Secretary of State and Committeeman Jesse White’s spokesman, Dave Druker.
“The committee was impressed last time around, and thought he [Winters] was a good choice,” Druker said.
Winters is the head of Near West Side neighborhood group Homeowners of Westtown United, where among other things, he helped organize a debate between Smith and his primary challenger Tom Swiss at St. Malachy school.
Winters said he’s excited to head to Springfield.
“I’m in the process of figuring out what to do next. Everything just happened, it’s all fresh,” he said.
Having run for the 10th District seat twice, he’s ready to get down to work — even if it’s only a temporary gig.
“The positive for me is the experience of being down in Springfield and getting a hands-on idea of how legislation goes from start to end,” he said. “You can read about it, but it’s not the same. That’s all I can speak on right now. I look forward to going down there and learning what I can.”
Currently a cop working in a special unit at the Chicago Police Department, Winters said he’ll have to take a leave of absence while he’s serving in Springfield, but he thinks he’ll be able to go back to his old gig when he leaves the seat in January. He said he’ll keep his eye out for other opportunities.
“I’ll go back to being a police officer, and I’ll continue being active in my community, which I hold close, because I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said. “If anything else comes up that might be of interest, then I’ll look at it then. As far as any other political offices, I’ll see what comes up.”