Democrat D'Angelo Jelks and Republican Greg Vital have qualified for the special election to replace the late Rep. Mike Carter in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Gov. Bill Lee called a special election this month to fill a seat representing the Collegedale, Ooltewah and Harrison areas in the House that was made vacant in May when Rep. Mike Carter, who held the seat since 2012, died at 67 of pancreatic cancer.
As of the noon qualifying deadline on Thursday, 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 — and Vital — a 65-year-old cofounder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and operator of a small buffalo farm in Georgetown who lives in Ooltewah — were the only two qualified candidates from any party.
While three other prospective candidates — two Republicans and an independent — picked up papers for the race, only Jelks and Vital will actually be on the ballot, leaving them both unopposed in the July primary.
Still, the election commission is bound by state law to host a primary, even without contest, in any election without a caucus, including this special election, according to Hamilton County Administrator of Elections Scott Allen.
The election commission will meet next week to officially establish the primary ballot, but Jelks and Vital are set to appear alone on their respective party ballots during the July 27.
According to Allen, there will be no early voting for the primary, outside of absentee and military ballots. There will be nothing else on the ballot.
The two will face off in September for the general election, and the winner will sit in the District 29 seat until the end of Carter's initial term, which ends Nov. 8, 2022.
Carter's widow, Rep. Joan Carter, R-Ooltewah, was appointed to fill the seat until the special election is decided.
The district is predominantly Republican with 22 of its 29 voting precincts and a little over 65% of the district's total votes going toward Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.