Category Archives: legislative campaigns

Apparent Armstrong successor owes child support

Rodney “Rick” Staples, who has been chosen to replace Rep. Joe Armstrong as the Democratic party nominee in House District 15, is involved in a legal dispute over child support payments, according to Nashville Post Politics (crediting much of the Post post to a Knoxville Mercury story).

Armstrong is barred from running for public office because of his conviction earlier this month on a felony charge of filing false income tax return. Staples defeated former Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown to become successor nominee in the executive committee vote and he now needs only defeat perennial candidate Pete Drew, running as an independent with no Republican on the ballot, in the November election.

An arrest warrant was issued for Roderick “Rick” Staples in March after he failed to show for court in a case involving more than $8,200 in past-due child support, court records show. The warrant was rescinded in June, when Staples’ court-appointed attorney issued a $3,000 check on his behalf. A new court date was set for Oct. 5.

“I know I missed a court date. I just had the wrong date,” Staples says. “I look forward to serving the 15th District as their state Representative, and one great aside to that is, I’ll have an assistant to help manage my schedule.”

… Knox County Democratic Party Chairman Cameron Brooks says he was aware of Staples’ ongoing child-support case. He says he thinks everyone on the 15-person committee considering the House nomination was also aware, though it wasn’t discussed openly during a meeting and vote on his appointment on Thursday, Aug. 18. Staples beat out two other top contenders for the nomination, including Knoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown and LeTonia Armstrong, who is Joe Armstrong’s wife.

“We’re standing behind him as a party and we’re looking forward to the November election and to seeing him elected to the Legislature,” Brooks says.

Staples expects the court case to be resolved next year when his estranged son — whom we’re not naming because he’s a minor — turns 18 and graduates from high school.

October date set for Todd sign theft trial

An October 11 trial date has been set in the case of suburban state Rep. Curry Todd, charged earlier this month with stealing opponent Mark Lovell’s yard signs, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Lawyers discussed the case Monday before General Sessions Court Judge Louis J. Montesi Jr. in hushed tones impossible to hear. Afterward, both Todd, R-Collierville, and his attorney Ted Hansom declined to comment. Prosecutor Byron Winsett confirmed the October 11 trial date.

Winsett is the top-level local prosecutor for public corruption and economic crimes. He said he’s handling the case because it involves a public official.

Todd — charged with theft of property under $500, a misdemeanor — was arrested two days before the August 4 primary election, which he went on to lose to Lovell. The arrest came after two instances where a Lovell backer photographed the state legislator removing the challenger’s signs. Lovell told Sheriff’s deputies hundreds of his sign were missing.

…Todd acknowledged taking the signs, but contended the landowner gave him exclusive rights to place signs at the property. He identified the owners as the Porters. An arrest affidavit written by Detective Sgt. B. Clark says he interviewed Joel Porter, who said Todd did not contact him, and no one had specific authorization to put signs on the property.

Beavers selling Trump stuff for PAC profit

State Sen. Mae Beavers and her husband, Jerry, are selling homemade Donald Trump campaign materials with profits going to Beavers’ political action committee rather than the Republican party or the Trump campaign, reports The Tennessean.

Beavers, who served as a Trump delegate and chair of Tennessee delegation at the Republican National Convention, has a booth at the Wilson County fair this weekend as well as a storefront operation.

Interested buyers will be able to choose from a host of different options ranging from $15 hats and T-shirts to $3 buttons and $5 yard signs.

Although the material, which features Trump and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s name on it, may look official, it was actually printed by the Beaverses.

“My husband and I have purchased it,” she told The Tennessean, explaining that the couple spent $5,000 to print gear that includes camouflage, red, black or blue hats and black and blue T-shirts that go as large as 2XL.

On Friday, Beavers said the fact that she’s selling homemade Trump gear, which she said was all made in the United States, is not an unusual practice.

“Everybody’s doing this all over the state,” she said. Continue reading

Democrats pick Rick Staples to replace Joe Armstrong

Knoxville community activist Rick Staples was chosen Thursday to replace Joe Armstrong as Democratic nominee for the House District 15 seat, reports the News Sentinel.

Veteran lawmaker Armstrong won the nomination on Aug. 4 but lost it a few days afterwards when convicted on a felony charge of filing a false tax return. That bars him from seeking office under state law.

Armstrong’s wife, LeTonia Armstrong, had sought her husband’s position, but was not nominated at the Thursday night meeting of the Knox County Democratic party. Only Staples and Knoxville Councilman and former Mayor Daniel Brown got nominated.

Staples said after the vote that his recent losses in the city council and county commission races will help in approaching the 15th District election.

“I’ve gained experience the whole way … and I’m thankful for that. They may not have been wins, but they were lessons I learned,” he said.

Staples, a former Knox County Sheriff’s Office employee, is project management and communications supervisor for Castles of Choice project, and vice president and chair of mentorship for 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville. Earlier this year he lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for Knox County Commission’s 1st District seat.

Note: The last paragraph is from a separate, earlier News Sentinel story.

Rep. Daniel booked on assault charge

State. Rep. Martin Daniel was formally booked Thursday on a misdemeanor assault charge lodged against him last month for allegedly shoving his Republican primary opponent, according to the News Sentinel.

Daniel, 59, is charged with shoving Steve Hall during a July 21 on-air radio forum hosted by Hallerin Hilton Hill on WOKI-FM when the two candidates for the 18th District House Republican primary race began arguing.

…Hall, who previously held the House seat for two terms until Daniel ousted him in 2014, swore out a warrant against Daniel the following week, and publicly and repeatedly questioned Daniel’s mental health.

Daniel still went on to win the GOP primary Aug. 4 with 1,314 votes. He faces Democratic challenger Brandi Price in the Nov. 8 general election. Price has said she doesn’t plan to bring up the assault case “unless it needs to be brought up.”

Daniel and his lawyer, Gregory P. Isaacs, have insisted Daniel offered Hall a “heartfelt and sincere” apology and that the assault charge came as a surprise.

Hall, who came in second in the primary by 964 votes, has said he plans to continue to pursue the assault case.

Durham campaign audit finds money discrepancy, questionable ‘investments

A $191,000 discrepancy exists between bank records and financial disclosures for Rep. Jeremy Durham’s main campaign finance account, according to a memo from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance that’s part of an ongoing state investigation.

A further excerpt from The Tennessean report:

Bank records show Durham’s campaign account on March 31 had a balance of $6,857, according to the memo obtained by The Tennessean. But Durham’s first quarter financial disclosure, filed on June 6, states the campaign had $198,254.

“At this time a determination cannot be made as to the accuracy of Rep. Durham’s campaign balance due to investments, failure to report contributions and other transactions,” states the memo, dated Wednesday.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, wouldn’t say whether the state found any illegal acts by Durham. But Tom Lawless, chairman of the board, said the memo raises questions.

“There are indications there may be some serious violations, and we want to garner the facts so we can take the appropriate remedies,” Lawless said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The registry, an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, started investigating Durham in June after the Tennessee attorney general provided a signed statement from a former campaign worker accusing Durham of using campaign funds for his private business. Continue reading

‘I am more than Joe Armstrong’s wife’

LeTonia Hardin Armstrong was politicking Saturday, passing out a resume of her qualifications to serve in the House District 15 seat at a Democratic women’s gathering, reports Georgiana Vines. The Knox County Democratic Executive Committee meets Thursday to choose a replacement nominee for Joe Armstrong, who was convicted of filing a false federal income tax report.

“I am more than Joe Armstrong’s wife,” she said following the luncheon at the Foundry.

…(She) distributed to some Democrats and the media a copy of an email she has written to 15 members of the Knox County Democratic Party who will make the decision. Continue reading

Matheny speech on TNGOP ‘crisis’ spurned

The Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee took a vote Saturday on whether to let state Rep. Judd Matheny address the body on his belief the party faces a “crisis,” in part over leadership ties to a consulting firm that helped challengers attack him and other incumbents in this year’s primary elections.

The result, according to The Tennessean: 24 voted to let Matheny talk; 35 voted no.

In recent months, Matheny has taken issue with the fact that Southland Advantage – a company founded by Taylor Ferrell, who is the wife of the party’s political director, Walker Ferrell – was once hired by candidates running against Matheny, Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

All three lawmakers beat their challengers in the state’s Aug. 4 primary election.

Several party members, including Wilson County Republicans, have called for the firing of Walker Ferrell, as well as party chairman Ryan Haynes and Brent Leatherwood, the state party’s executive director, arguing that they have condoned activity that undermines the work of incumbent Republicans.

…Matheny later told The Tennessean that he hoped to provide SEC members with a packet of information that included a two-page speech, his April letter and other notes about Southland Advantage’s involvement in primary election races.

…“We are here today because we know and the public knows that our party is in crisis,” Matheny wrote in his prepared remarks. “We are at a point where we have to make a choice. We either work to restore our party to one that conducts its business with integrity and based on principles, or we stand by and watch it decline into Obama-like lawlessness.”

… Matheny said the party cannot continue to “buddy up with people of questionable ethical behavior who for their own personal benefit and ambition are willing to lie, cheat and bend the rules until they become unrecognizable.”

Haynes has previously said that no party staff members have been involved in any Republican primaries. In an email sent to SEC members in May, Haynes said the party has a long-standing policy of staying out of primary elections but the bylaws do not prevent “vendors or spouses of staffers from engaging in primaries.”

…Matheny also said Haynes originally told him he could address the SEC but was removed from the agenda during a last minute administrative meeting held Friday night.

Haynes confirmed that the party’s administrative committee voted against Matheny speaking but added that he supported the lawmaker.

“I think it would’ve been in the best interest of the party to allow him to have an opportunity to speak,” he said, adding that he and Matheny disagree on the facts.

Matheny said Haynes has been “very disingenuous” with him, adding that the chairman told him Saturday morning that he would “lobby” for the lawmaker to address the audience. Matheny also said he would only talk to Haynes via email or in public because “I can’t trust him.”

Haynes said he was sorry Matheny felt that way about him and that he believes the lawmaker is “an outstanding conservative legislator.”

LeTonia Armstrong may seek husband’s House seat

LeTonia Armstrong, wife of veteran state Rep. Joe Armstrong, is one of the three top candidates to replace the veteran lawmaker in House District 15 following his conviction on a felony charge of filing a false tax return, according to the News Sentinel.

The other two are Knoxville City Councilman and former city mayor, Daniel Brown, and Rick Staples, a community advocate who has run several recent unsuccessful bids for local office.

The Knox County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee meets Thursday to choose a successor to Joe Armstrong as the party nominee. Armstrong’s conviction means he cannot run for public office under state law, but he won the nomination without opposition before the jury verdict. No Republican qualified to run for the seat, but the new nominee will face independent perennial candidate Pete Drew in November.

Letonia Armstrong, who has worked as a lobbyist in Tennessee and other states, tells WATE TV: “I’m talking with as many people possible in order to make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the 15th District.”

But the News Sentinel says some Democrats are worried that appoint her could lead to controversy in a situation where Joe Armstrong’s conviction has already created controversy enough.

“A lack of controversy, and heavy community involvement is probably the big thing for me,” Paul Witt said.

Witt will be among the 15 Democrats who will make the decision on who to place on the ballot.

…Avoiding controversy may make Armstrong’s wife less attractive to the position, though Witt didn’t call her out specifically. Witt said he didn’t want the appearance that the committee’s selection next week had any impression of being a backdoor deal.

…Outgoing Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie (mentioned earlier as a prospective candidate) said he isn’t seeking the seat, though he would likely be a favorite if he did. McKenzie said that he doesn’t have the time to dedicate to the office between looking after his ailing father and his job as facility manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. But he didn’t rule out the possibility of seeking the 15th District in future elections.

“As things evolve in two years or four years, I’ll look at running for it,” McKenzie said. “I think I’m capable, but not right now.”