BY O.J. EARLY
Campaigns are heating up as the political clock ticks closer to the 2014 election.
The battle for Third Judicial District Attorney General, which will be left vacant this year by retiring District Attorney General Berkley Bell, is well underway.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Armstrong, focusing on his experience as a prosecutor, and Greeneville attorney Ed Kershaw, emphasizing the district attorney's role to pursue justice, campaigned before local Republicans on Monday night.
The two men spoke at the regular monthly meeting of the Greene County Republican Party, held at the County Courthouse.
The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Assistant District Attorney Cecil C. Mills Jr. in the August General Election.
Mills, a Democrat, is also pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Greeneville.
The Third Judicial District covers Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins and Hancock counties.
Kershaw, an attorney with Leonard, Kershaw & Hensley LLP, has campaigned for district attorney general since early-2012.
"They teach you in law school, they teach you in the cases that a DA is to do justice. That's it," he said. "A DA is not to win. A DA's job is not to lose. A DA's job is to do justice."
A district attorney must try difficult cases, even if losing is a possibility, Kershaw said. The Greeneville attorney criticized state district attorney general offices statewide for their concern with winning and losing cases.
"That is absolutely the wrong philosophy to have," said Kershaw. "If you're going to be DA, you do justice."
Kershaw is married to Linda Kershaw, and they have two children. As a college student in Texas, Kershaw said he worked offshore on an oil platform. That part of his life was very defining, he said.
"Working off-shore was probably the most influential thing in my life because it taught me to appreciate people for their work ethic," he said.
The Greeneville attorney said he has no plans to hold the office for decades should he win.
"I have no desire to be a career DA," he said. "It is my desire to get it and do the best I can for you for two terms and get out."
Assistant District Attorney Dan Armstrong has worked in the Third Judicial District Attorney General's office for nearly 30 years.
"I'm running for district attorney general because I think my experience is necessary to do this job," said Armstrong.
"I've prosecuted criminal cases from traffic citations to murder. I have three murder cases on my desk right now."
Armstrong cited a growing problem with drug- and prescription-pill addiction across the state. In neighboring Hamblen County, criminal court cases involving drugs jumped from just under 600 in 2012 to more than 1,000 last year, he said.
The next district attorney general must confront drug addiction head-on, he said.
"It's a societal problem; it's not just a criminal justice problem," Armstrong said. "But it's affecting the criminal justice system ... I believe that we are going to have to incorporate rehabilitation."
Armstrong is married to Greene County Clerk and Master Kay Solomon Armstrong. He has never sought political office before now.
"A prosecutor's job is to take the law and the facts and try to do what's right in that particular case," he said.
"I think that prosecuting experience is a vital part of being district attorney."