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

By Ben Meyerson

5 Comments - Add Your Comment

A week after Derrick Smith, above, was kicked out of the Illinois House, Democrats have picked a Near West Side leader to finish out his term.
File 2012

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.”

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By Matt W from Dearborn Park
Posted: 08/28/2012 9:50 AM

They picked a guy who is defintiely not part of anyone's "organziation", to the extent they still exist. He ran against their candidates at least twice. I'm beginning to think that it is so popular to criticize Dem leaders these days that you write the article without really thinking about what you're saying. Now I know why there are so many Chicago Journal issues left unread in my lobby each week!

By George from Near West
Posted: 08/27/2012 10:27 AM

The committee should had voted for Jesse White to stop picking candiates. First Anneztte Chase, now Smith. Still wanting on White\'s other elected pick, Patricia Van Pelt Walkins, to have a scandel. If I was Winters, I wouldn't want to be bother. Instead of putting him on the ballot, they choose an ex-Stroger employee. Smith may win for sure.

By David from West Loop
Posted: 08/25/2012 5:42 PM

That may be, 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.\"

By Claudeah from United Center
Posted: 08/24/2012 9:41 PM

@David. Eddie is far from a machine guy, which is why he didn't get the nomination. I have known Eddie for quite a few years and have worked with him on neighborhood activities. He is a very hardworking individual who takes whatever job he does seriously and gets frustrated by the machine as anyone else. Congrats Eddie!

By David from West Loop
Posted: 08/24/2012 5:21 PM

And the machine marches on.