NASHVILLE — Early voting begins Wednesday in the Tennessee House District 29 special election in which Republican Greg Vital and Democrat DeAngelo Jelks are squaring off in the GOP-leaning district that includes Collegedale and Ooltewah.
With only 2.43% of the estimated 51,000 voters in the district having cast ballots during the July 27 Republican and Democratic primary elections, both Vital and Jelks have been pushing to reach voters in the special general election to serve out the remainder of the term of the late Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.
Early voting extends Mondays through Saturdays from Aug. 25 through Sept. 9, excluding Sundays and Labor Day. The Hamilton County Election Commission is operating four early voting sites. Election Day is Sept. 14.
Both candidates, who had no opponents in their respective July primary races, have been hitting the campaign trail for weeks in the district, which also includes portions of Chattanooga and the Highway 58 area.
"I'm just door knocking. That's all I'm doing today, to encourage people to go out and vote," said Vital, chairman, president and co-founder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and Independent HealthCare properties, by telephone on Tuesday. "Beyond that, excited it's finally here."
Efforts to reach Jelks, who works as a human resources recruiter for a local company and is an Iraq War veteran, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
A day earlier, Jelks, also a U.S. Army Reserve captain, tweeted that "a little post work door knocking never hurt. Happy to be out here pounding the pavement to meet the people."
Jelks has said in previous Times Free Press interviews that despite the district's GOP lean, he believes he has an opportunity to win.
Vital, a former Collegedale city commissioner who in 2010 lost a close state Senate District 10 GOP primary battle to now-Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, has taken no chances in this contest.
The businessman retained the services of Baker Group Strategies, headed by Ward Baker, a Tennessean who successfully headed the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2016 election cycle and has served in key advisory roles for U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, both Tennessee Republicans.
Vital has raised about $88,000 over the course of the campaign and also loaned his effort $10,000 as he began the race. By comparison, Jelks had raised nearly $12,000 and his pre-primary report showed he had $1,738 left in cash on hand. Vital has spent about $55,000 and had close to $45,500 in cash on hand, according to his pre-primary report submitted July 20 to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Candidates' final financial disclosure before the actual Sept. 14 Election Day is due Sept. 7.
Jelks recently told the Times Free Press that his effort is a "data-driven operation. Our calculations don't require that much to win. So the number he's already raised wasn't even on our radar as necessary."
Asked what he's hearing on the campaign trail, Vital said Tuesday "we're just finding a lot of people are interested in the difference between the two candidates and glad to get behind somebody who's going to follow the conservative values of Tennessee and support the same traditions that Mike Carter has for many years."
Voters are "concerned about our state and our country," Vital said. "People want to get back to a sense of controlling their own lives. They want to get their kids back in school, and they want to get back to work."
Carter's widow, Joan Carter, was appointed by the Hamilton County Commission to serve as representative until the Sept. 14 election. Mike Carter died July 16 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.
IF YOU PLAN TO VOTE
Early voting in the Tennessee House 29 special general election begins Wednesday, Aug. 25, in Hamilton County and continues through Thursday, Sept. 9, in four locations. All early voting sites are open Mondays through Saturdays and closed on Sundays. But all four sites will be closed Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 6. Those casting ballots must be a registered voter whose residence is in District 29 in order to partipate.
Locations, operational hours and days open are the same for the Brainerd Rec Center, Collegedale City Hall and Hixson Community Center. The Hamilton County Election Commission office has slightly different operating hours. All the early voting sites close five days before the Sept. 14 Election Day.
Hamilton County Election Commission, 700 River Terminal Road
Open weekdays Aug. 25 through Sept. 5, closed Monday Sept. 6, Labor Day. Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Weekdays (Sept. 7 -Sept. 9): 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday (Aug 28): 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday (Sept 4): 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Brainerd Rec Center (1010 North Moore Road), Collegedale (4910 Swinyar Drive) and Hixson (5401 School Drive) early voting sites all have the same schedules.
They are open week days, Mondays through Saturdays, while closed on Sundays and Labor Day, Sept. 6.
Open Wednesday, Aug. 25 through Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021
Mondays through Fridays: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.