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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Representative Mike Carter answers a question.at the newspaper's offices on Nov. 15, 2019.

NASHVILLE — Republican businessman and entrepreneur Greg Vital of Georgetown has reported raising $21,000 so far in the special Tennessee House District 29 race, while Democrat DeAngelo Jelks of Ooltewah has raised $10,700.

The two men are unopposed in their respective July 27 Republican and Democratic primaries. The general election for the seat, left open by the death of House Civil Justice Committee Chairman Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, is Sept. 14.

Vital, 64, is chairman, president and co-founder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and Independent HealthCare, which operates senior centers across the state. Vital disclosed making $10,000 in loans of his own funds to his campaign in mid-June.

He reported raising $11,000 from donors, according to his report filed this week. Top Vital donors included JMS PAC, associated with payday loan titan Allan Jones of Cleveland, Tennessee, which gave $1,500.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, Tennessee, contributed $2,500 to Vital's primary through his Lamberth PAC. Other donors included Map Engineers LLC of Chattanooga, which gave $1,600, as did Chattanooga architect Pat Neuhoff. CPA Robert Decosimo contributed $1,000.

Top donors for Jelks, 40, an Iraq War veteran, U.S. Army Reserve captain and former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga police officer from Ooltewah now employed as a human resources recruiter for a Chattanooga firm, include his wife, Amanda Jelks, who contributed $1,600.

Jelks' top contributor was attorney Wendy Proctor, who contributed $1,672. Other donors included Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Rodney Strong, a retired Hamilton County prosecutor and part-time magistrate who gave $250. Cornerstone Insurance Group executive Peter Viens contributed $750.

The district includes Ooltewah, Collegedale, portions of the Highway 58 area and crosses the Tennessee River to include Sale Creek. The district has favored Republican candidates, but Jelks has said he believes he has an opportunity to pick up support from GOP voters.

Vital was in Nashville on Monday. He was spotted descending an escalator at the Grand Hyatt hotel downtown, where the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments was holding its summer meeting.

In 2012, Vital and Todd Gardenhire competed in a GOP Senate primary that Gardenhire narrowly won. Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, was re-elected in 2016 and again in 2020. Republican Hoyt Samples, a friend of both Carter and Gardenhire, considered running in the House District 29 GOP primary but ultimately opted not to as he begins winding down his professional responsibilities in preparation for a planned retirement.

Taking no chances this time around on his state contest, Vital has hired consulting firm Baker Strategies, spearheaded by Ward Baker, who served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2016. Baker was a top political adviser to now-U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, in her successful 2018 campaign against former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

Baker also handled the campaign of now-U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee, in his successful 2020 GOP primary contest against physician Manny Sethi.

Carter, an attorney and businessman, was a popular figure in the Legislature, affectionately dubbed "judge" in honor of his service as a Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge. Carter died in May from pancreatic cancer.

To honor Carter's contribution to the community, Hamilton County Commission members named his widow, Joan Carter, as his replacement until the Sept. 14 election.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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