Bud Armstrong to Run for Chancellor
By Focus Staff
Richard “Bud” Armstrong has announced he will be a candidate in next year’s Republican primary for Chancellor, Part II
Armstrong released a statement stressing the importance of competent and impartial jurists on the bench. “It has become more important than ever in our country to have judges who truly follow the law,” Armstrong said in his announcement. “Unfortunately, in our country today, there has been a tendency to drift away from the law and render opinions based on things other than the law.”
Armstrong pointed out the importance of fairness in courtrooms. “Our legal system isn’t perfect nor are human beings, but Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason. Justice should always be rendered without favor, with impartiality, and in accordance with the law.”
“I believe judges need to follow the law as set by the state legislatures, not interpret the law as they think it should be,” Armstrong said.
Bud Armstrong served as a member of the Knox County Commission before being elected Law Director, defeating incumbent Joe Jarret in the GOP primary. Armstrong overcame big odds in that race. Armstrong is used to being the underdog in elections. Even when he sought a second four-year term as Law Director in 2016, Armstrong faced determined opposition from the daily newspaper who stoutly supported his primary opponent. Lobbyists and country club Republicans provided Armstrong’s opposition with a hefty campaign war chest. Armstrong had earned the enmity of some lawyers for not farming out as much of the county’s lawsuits for lucrative fees. Despite the fierce opposition, it availed them nothing, as Bud Armstrong did what he has always done – – – took his campaign directly to the people. Armstrong won a well-deserved reputation for being direct and honest. Bud Armstrong also benefitted from a wide acquaintanceship among local folks and a host of personal friends. Genial, kind, and good-hearted, Bud Armstrong has always had an “open door” policy, which earned him the sobriquet “The People’s Lawyer.” Armstrong never hesitated to tell anyone he worked for the people of Knox County. Bud Armstrong has a strong streak of independence and was positively fearless in his pursuit of justice for the people of Knox County during his time as Law Director.
It was Bud Armstrong who ended the common practice of allowing the Knox County Trustee to hire a delinquent tax attorney. One attorney’s firm earned an estimated $8 million before Armstrong brought those services in-house. Now those funds flow into the county’s coffers. That is the equivalent of 8 cents on the property tax rate. Whereas before, $8 million was going into a law firm’s pockets, Bud Armstrong spent $85,000 to bring it in-house with the extra money going to Knox County. Armstrong took the position the Law Director, while certainly Knox County’s attorney, was not beholden to other officeholders, but rather ultimately accountable to the people.
It was Bud Armstrong who saved Knox County taxpayers $30 million in litigation and administrative costs over an eight-year period. It was Bud Armstrong who filed the suit against disgraced county Trustee Mike Lowe and won a judgment on behalf of the people. Armstrong also found a way to save Knox County $4 million through reworking the administrative costs of the Worker’s Compensation program. Bud Armstrong also did the same thing for the Knox County School system, which never had worker’s comp before that time. As an example of the extra lengths to which Bud Armstrong would go on behalf of a citizen, Bud saw to it that a public employee, who had been gravely wounded and would never be able to work again, received fair and just treatment under the law. The county’s maximum liability is $750,000, but Bud filed suit under a criminal statute that provided a worker’s compensation-like program to help defray the continuing medical and living expenses for that victim.
It was Bud Armstrong who wrote the language that kept the Law Director’s office elected, rather than appointed after a determined effort to change it. Mike McMillan, East Knox County’s School Board member says Bud Armstrong was instrumental in the new schools built in the Gibbs and Carter communities. “Why, we wouldn’t have the Gibbs Middle School or the Carter Elementary School without Bud,” McMillan said. “If you don’t believe me, ask Tim Burchett about it. Bud worked as hard as anyone to get those schools, so East Knox County folks have a lot to thank him for.”
Many Knoxvillians may not be familiar with the Chancery Court, but it is an office of great importance in the legal community. The Chancery Court hears any number of issues including lawsuits, contract disputes, applications for injunctions and name changes. The Chancery Court can also hear worker’s compensation cases and divorces. Chancery Courts are the courts of equity in Tennessee, which are based on the system in England where the chancellor was called the “King’s conscience” and rendered decisions in the monarch’s name. According to the State of Tennessee, “A chancellor, the judge who presides over the Chancery Courts, may modify the application of strict legal rules and adapt relief to the circumstances of individual cases.”
Armstrong will be contesting the seat in the Chancery Court for Part II, which is held currently by Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr. Pridemore was first elected in an election which saw the ouster of every Democratic incumbent, including well-respected Chancellor Daryl Fansler. Pridemore was the beneficiary of a tidal wave election that swept out some highly respected jurists and replaced them with Republican challengers. The most notable examples being Eddie Pridemore defeating Fansler and Bill Ailor beating the late Harold Wimberly. Armstrong spent years working at TVA and as an attorney before entering public life.
Bud Armstrong has a very deep reservoir of goodwill to draw upon in any election, as well as a legion of friends and supporters inside and outside of the legal community. Armstrong is especially popular inside his own community of East Knox County. Eddie Pridemore has a tough race on his hands and Bud Armstrong is a familiar figure on the political hustings. Married to his wife Patti Jo for 44 years, Bud knows the law and he knows politics. Bud Armstrong is going to be awful hard to beat.