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DeAngelo Jelks / Photo contributed by DeAngelo Jelks

NASHVILLE — The special election for Tennessee's House District 29 seat has its first formally announced candidate, Democrat DeAngelo Jelks, while Republicans Greg Vital and Hoyt Samples have picked up nominating petitions signaling their intent to run in the contest to succeed the late state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah.

Jelks, an Iraq War veteran, U.S. Army Reserve captain and former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga police officer, is employed as a human resources recruiter for a local firm. He has picked up his qualifying petition, which is due Thursday.

"I've dedicated my life to serving our country. Now I can see no better way to serve Tennesseans and our communities than as the representative of the 29th District of Tennessee," Jelks said.

Jelks said in an interview that "I see I can make a difference, and I think that anyone who can make a difference should make a difference. I've served in the military since I was 17, I spent some time as a cop. So I've always had a service heart."

Vital is chairman, president and co-founder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and Independent HealthCare properties. He serves on the First Horizon Bank Board and is board chairman for The Land Trust for Tennessee.

In 2012, Vital, a former Collegedale city commissioner who now lives in Georgetown, battled fellow Republican Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga in a costly, tight and brutal GOP primary battle in Senate District 10. Gardenhire emerged as victor, winning 50.1% of the vote and then coasting to victory during the general election in the majority Republican district.

Samples is a long-time local attorney and has a practice in commercial and business litigation, personal injury and estate planning.

In the late 1980s and 1990, Sample was the lead attorney and successfully defended a group of anti-abortion activists arrested during a demonstration at Chattanooga's only abortion clinic.

The Democratic and Republican primary elections are July 27. The district includes parts of the city of Chattanooga, all of the cities or towns of Collegedale and Soddy-Daisy and Lakesite as well as the Ooltewah, Apison, Highway 58 and Sale Creek areas of Hamilton County.

Carter, a former Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge and the respected chairman of the House Civil Justice Committee, died May 15 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The deadline for candidates to file their signature petitions for the contest is Thursday. Tennessee law requires qualifying petitions contain the signatures, excluding the candidate, of at least 25 registered voters who live in the House district.

Last week, the Hamilton County Commission on a bipartisan basis named Carter's widow, Joan Carter, to fill the seat until the Sept. 14 special general election called by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

The Republican and Democratic primaries will be held July 27.

In an interview Saturday, Joan Carter definitively ruled out running for her late husband's seat.

"You can take it to the bank," she said. "You know, I have people questioning me all the time, but I truly just did this [accept temporary appointment] as a tribute to Mike to be honest."

She said she appreciated commissioners' gesture, noting, "I would have been out there anyway to stand in, you know, there's a lot of things that he had worked on. They're going to be coming to fruition, and I've already had several invitations."

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

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