Tennessee Democrats Seek New Candidate After Rep. Armstrong's Felony Conviction | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Democrats Seek New Candidate After Rep. Armstrong's Felony Conviction

Aug 8, 2016

One of the longest-serving members of the state legislature will be replaced on the November ballot, following his conviction Monday on a federal tax charge.

Knoxville Democrat Joe Armstrong was convicted just four days after winning his primary. He had run unopposed and faced only one independent candidate in November.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini says no one else wanted to take on a man who had served in the legislature since 1988.

"I think that's a testament to the service that Joe Armstrong gave to his constituents, that no one decided to come forth and challenge him, and I also think that people were waiting for the justice system to play out."

Armstrong was accused of trying to hide approximately $320,000 from federal authorities and the voters. He made the money in 2007 off a state cigarette tax hike, buying tax stamps before the increase and then reselling them afterward at a profit. His defense lawyers said during the trial that he was duped by his adviser.

Armstrong faced three charges and was convicted of only one — filing a false return. But that alone carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, and as a felon, he's forbidden by Tennessee law from running again for the seat.

Democrats get to choose his replacement on the ballot. They have until late September to do so but plan to make their pick within the next 10 days.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that former Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown and outgoing County Commissioner Sam McKenzie are among the frontrunners to replace Armstrong on the November ballot.