|By Jim Balloch, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Three candidates in the
The ultimate extent to which such public disclosures can affect a candidate's chances depends heavily on how and why the debts came about and on how the candidate explains it to voters, according to two political science professors.
The candidates -- all lawyers -- are
Williams' and Lay's opponents say they have not and will not make the liens an issue. Pridemore, who has a judgment for an old credit card debt, is running unopposed in the primary but will face incumbent
Williams voluntarily disclosed liens against him and answered questions about them when he met with the
"When things like these come out in the course of a campaign, it can make the average voter think, 'Gee, I pay my taxes, and this person running for a position of trust does not pay,' " said
Experts said honesty tends to be the best policy.
"The more information about it that (the candidates themselves) put out there, the better off they will be," said
Bullock said a popular incumbent is less likely to be damaged by such a disclosure than a challenger or a seeker of an open seat. Briley said in any case, voter apathy and low turnout can reduce the impact of such disclosures.
Williams is in a three-way primary race with
Williams and Lay say they have not been questioned about the liens by prospective voters.
"But I have had some people come up to me and say, 'Let me tell you my
Williams said he'll answer questions if asked.
"It's all been in the newspaper, on TV and Facebook, but nobody has asked me about it," he said. "If anybody does, I am ready, willing and able to respond."
Lay's primary opponent is
"I've not heard anything from them since the lien was filed," Pridemore said. "I will contact them and attempt to make some kind of arrangement. I don't see why this would have any impact on my ability to be impartial and fair on the bench and to correctly interpret the law."
Filed in 2008 and 2011, the liens against Williams total more than
Williams said his debts arose out of his wife's 2001 diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and from "terribly expensive" care and medical costs that drained all their resources.
"We are paying that off every month, slowly and surely," he said. "We've got it down to about
One claim is for
Lay said the liens relate to an error that occurred when all the income from a dissolving partnership was initially reported as her income and not divided among the partners. She showed the
She said corrected returns had already been filed and that she believed the claim was settled and that she does not owe the back taxes.
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