Mr. Smith ready to continue fight to show he's right

Dec. 10, 2005 12:00 AM

I've got to give Rep. David Burnell Smith credit. The guy doesn't quit.

Nothing seems to rattle him or, I might add, soften the iron-fisted grip he's got on that seat down at the state Capitol.

When the Clean Elections Commission voted unanimously to toss him out of office for violating campaign finance laws, Smith was defiant. He promptly labeled the move a conspiracy against conservatives and vowed to appeal, declaring, "I have not yet begun to fight."

Nine months and two appeals later, Smith is sounding less like a man reprising John Paul Jones and more like a man staring into the political equivalent of Davy Jones' locker.

"I know I'm right," Smith told me on Thursday, a day after Superior Court Judge Mark Aceto ordered him out of the Capitol. "I just haven't had a chance to prove it."

For a guy who should be used to rejection by now, Smith seemed shaken by Aceto's order. Maybe it's because this defeat came from the place where he was sure he'd find vindication. Or maybe it's because he knows he has only 10 days to find a judge who will let him hang onto his seat.

Fat chance.

Having watched the guy lose time after time after time, I found myself almost feeling sorry for Smith this week. Almost.

You can always run again in September, I pointed out.

"If I get thrown out of office, what's the chance of getting re-elected?" he replied. "They diminish rapidly once you're out of there."

He should know. Smith is a Carefree attorney who long ago decided his calling ran to politics, a persistent sort who lives by that timeless philosophy: If you don't succeed, try try try try again.

He won a seat in the Legislature in 2004 on his fifth try for public office. Unfortunately for him, he ran on the public's dime.

Under the Clean Elections law, candidates can run their campaigns with public money as long as they agree to abide by strict limits on spending. Exceed those limits by 10 percent and the law says you forfeit your seat. Smith went over by 17 percent and so he's out.

So says a state audit. And a state investigator. And the Clean Elections Commission. And an administrative law judge. And now, a Superior Court judge.

Smith, however, isn't the type to take no for an answer. He remains convinced he did nothing wrong and even if he did, that no mere commission can remove a duly elected official - even one who got himself duly elected by cheating.

On Monday, the indomitable Mr. Smith will hasten to the Court of Appeals in search of a reprieve. And, if need be, to the Supreme Court. And, if he can somehow manage it, to the federal courts.

He marches ever onward, unwilling to step down. Unwavering in his belief that "powerful forces" (read: the governor, the attorney general and Planned Parenthood) are behind this dastardly plan to kick him to the curb. Undeterred in his dream of being at the Legislature when it convenes in 30 days. Ready, willing and, if the courts allow it, able to sit on high and make laws for the rest of us to follow.

"It's not over yet," he said. "I believe strongly in my position. I believe strongly that we're right."

Who knows? Maybe some day he'll find a judge who agrees with him.

Until then, one can only hope that some court somewhere somehow can find the proper legal tool to at long last make Mr. Smith abide by the rules - rules he had no problem accepting when he wanted public money to run his campaign.

May I suggest a crowbar?

Reach Roberts at or (602) 444-8635.

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