NASHVILLE — Voters in parts of Hamilton County go to the polls Tuesday, where local officials project low turnout in the Tennessee House District 29 special primary election — with neither Republican Greg Vital nor Democrat DeAngelo Jelks facing opposition in their respective party primaries.
The main event in the specially called election to replace the late Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, is Sept. 14 when Vital and DeAngelo square off in the general election.
Political winds may favor Vital, a businessman, entrepreneur and former Collegedale commissioner, in the Republican-leaning district which includes Collegedale and Ooltewah, portions of Chattanooga as well as Harrison and Bakewell.
This is the first elective effort by Jelks, an Iraq War veteran and U.S. Army Reserve captain who works in human resources for a local business.
Hamilton County Election Commission officials are expecting less than 25% of the district's 50,133 active registered voters will cast ballots. Nate Foster, Hamilton County's assistant election administrator, said that "should mean less than 12,533 ballots cast."
Vital, who in 2012 lost a tight Senate District 10 GOP primary contest to Republican Todd Gardenhire, said, "we're working very hard and we're trying to get out and see as many people and make people aware there is a special election and that we're carrying the torch of Mike Carter forward and the issues that are important."
He said he "can't forecast what turnout's going to be because people are focused on a lot of things with vacation and travel. But we are encouraging people to get out and vote and exercise their opportunity vote."
Hamilton County precincts will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday for the primary election in House District 29. Both Republican Greg Vital and Democrat DeAngelo Jelks are unopposed. The district includes Collegedale, Ooltewah, parts of Chattanooga as well as Harrison and Sale Creek.
During interviews, Jelks said that given the Republican lean to the district as well as Vital's personal resources, "I know it will be difficult and some might say near impossible. But I guess I've never shied away from those challenges."
Jelks added, "there are people who have told me it will be impossible to win this race. but I feel that those same people might be related to those who told David he'd never slay Goliath. So I really don't buy into that stuff."
Vital, president and co-founder of Morning Pointe Assisted Living, easily leads in fundraising. He kicked off his effort with a $10,000 loan from himself during the second quarter and raised an additional $11,000 in contributions. Last week, he disclosed raising $79,205, almost all of it from donors including $24,800 from members of the McKee family, owners of Collegedale-based McKee Food Corp.
He spent $50,989 and reported an ending balance of $45,400.
Jelks during the second quarter raised $10,700. During the July 1-17 pre-primary period, he reported raising $1,200. He spent $10,300 and reported a cash balance of $1,700.
"We're running a data-driven campaign and our calculations, it won't even require that much for us to win this thing," Jelks said of Vital's haul. "So the number he's already raised wasn't even on our radar as necessary. Yeah, I think we're going to be competitive, mainly because we're efficient."
There are no estimates yet on the costs of the primary. But the state of Tennessee will pick up the tab, said Hamilton County Election Administrator Scott Allen.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.