NASHVILLE — Interested voters in Tennessee House District 29 will head to the polls Tuesday in the Hamilton County contest in which Republican Greg Vital and Democrat DeAngelo Jelks have collectively spent nearly $133,000 trying to generate interest in the special election.
But if early voting, which ended last week, is any guide, turnout could be low.
A tiny fraction of the registered voters in the Republican-leaning district, which includes Collegedale, Ooltewah, Harrison and parts of Chattanooga, showed up to cast early or absentee ballots during the 13 days of voting in the contest that is the only item on the ballot.
About 2,300 of the district's 51,000 eligible voters cast ballots during the early voting period in the contest to replace the late Rep. Mike Carter, an Ooltewah Republican who died May 15 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The lion's share of spending came from Vital, co-founder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and owner of a small buffalo farm. He enjoyed a 10-fold spending advantage over Jelks, a human resources recruiter for a local business, ever since the race kicked off in earnest back in June.
Tennessee Registry of Election Finance filings show Vital spent nearly $121,000 through the course of his primary and now general election compared to Jelks' almost $12,000. Jelk's pre-general election disclosure had yet to be listed on the registry's website as of mid-Monday afternoon.
Vital's expenditures include $25,600 in July with a New York state political vendor for printing and direct mail to reach voters. Another $25,700 in July went for direct messaging through texts and social media.
In August and early September, Vital shelled out $30,800 to the Tennessee Republican Party for direct mail, taking advantage of the party's nonprofit mailing postage rates as nominees of both parties often do.
Other expenditures include $5,200 for a Vital campaign event in August at the Walden Club. He spent $13,200 for advertising with Nashville-based tech firm Acquire Digital. He has so far paid his political consultant, The Baker Group, $17,500, records show.
In Jelks' pre-primary disclosure, submitted July 3, the candidate reported spending $4,900 for campaign workers and another $4,100 for signs. He disclosed having about $1,800 left in his campaign account.
Jelks told the Times Free Press on Sunday he thought the campaign had filed the required disclosure.
In a Facebook posting on Monday, Vital said he was "honored and humbled by the support I've received so far, and I look forward to earning your vote tomorrow."
In his own Facebook post a day earlier, Jelks said there are "more than 6,400 strong Democrats" in the district who "have voted in Democratic primaries since 2014. This means we have a strong chance of flipping this seat blue if we have sufficient turnout."
Hamilton County polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 19 precincts on Election Day. If unsure of your precinct, go to bit.ly/votechatt for more information.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.