LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former state representative who resigned his seat last year after a felony theft conviction is trying to run for the Legislature again, but state Democratic officials don't know if he's eligible.
Former state Rep. Fred Smith filed Thursday to run for the east Arkansas seat from which he'd resigned last year because of the felony conviction that made him ineligible. State Democratic Party Chairman Will Bond says Smith's attorneys told the party that Smith was in the process of having his conviction expunged.
Bond says he told Smith that he would have to forfeit his $3,000 filing fee if he's found to be ineligible. Smith made his bid official shortly before the deadline to file for state office on Thursday.
"Since we don't know if the ordered has been entered or will be entered and filing is at the closing, we're going to accept his paperwork with the understanding that he could ineligible and could lose his filing fee unless he's met the requirements," Bond said.
Smith, a former Harlem Globetrotter, would not tell reporters Thursday whether his conviction had been expunged.
He said during a brief, rambling interview as he left the state Capitol that he was running again "to clear my name and give God all the glory."
"I'm the Tim Tebow of state representatives," Smith said, comparing himself to the devout NFL quarterback.
When asked which judge was handling his case, Smith responded: "God, God is handling the case."
Smith filed to run against Democratic state Rep. Hudson Hallum, who won the seat in a special election last year after Smith's resignation. Hallum said he was surprised by Smith's candidacy.
"I'm a little unsure about his status to run and his eligibility, but we'll take a look at that after we get done up here," Hallum said, referring to the legislative session that is expected to end Friday.
Smith resigned from the House after a judge found him guilty of theft of property delivered by mistake. Prosecutors had charged Smith after an audit found that a school district issued a duplicate payment of $29,250 to a nonprofit group run by Smith and that both payments were cashed.
Before his resignation, the House had voted to allow him to serve despite questions about whether he has lived in Arkansas long enough to meet residency requirements.
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