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Contributed photo by Greg Vital campaign / Greg Vital is a candidate for the House District 29 seat.

This story was updated Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at 10:15 p.m. with final, unofficial results.

NASHVILLE — Republican Greg Vital of Georgetown was elected Tuesday as Tennessee House District 29's new representative at the state Capitol in the special election held in Hamilton County.

Vital easily bested Democrat DeAngelo Jelks in the contest to replace the late Rep. Mike Carter, an Ooltewah Republican who died in May following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Carter's widow, Joan Carter, had been appointed by the Hamilton County Commission to serve in her late husband's seat until the election.

Vital, 65, a businessman, won 3,884 votes to Jelks' 964 votes after early and write-in votes and actual election day votes were tallied, according to unofficial final results from the county election commission. Ten people wrote in other candidates.

"Thank you #HD29 residents for entrusting me to represent you in the Gen. Assembly," Vital said on Twitter. "I will carry Mike and Joan's torch of good governance and leadership. I will always put you FIRST!"

A former Collegedale city commissioner who in 2012 lost a close state Senate District 10 Republican primary to Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Vital also said "I will always put what matters most first — you. That means standing for life, defending the Constitution, supporting our businesses and protecting our conservative values."

Jelks was engulfed in the campaign's final hours by allegations of rape by a woman who worked on Jelks' campaign. He said on Tuesday the two had an affair, and it was consensual. Jelks is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and a married father of two.

It was the only race on the ballot. Vital won with nearly 80% of the votes cast. 

Tennessee Republicans quickly congratulated Vital with House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, tweeting, "Congratulations on your big victory tonight! We are confident you will be successful in serving #HD29, and we are excited to welcome you to the General Assembly and the @tnhousereps!"

After offering his congratulations, Republican Gov. Bill Lee, tweeted, "Looking forward to serving with you as you serve Tennesseans in #HD29."

In addition to Collegedale and Ooltewah, the district includes parts of Chattanooga as well as the Harrison and Sale Creek areas of the county. It is heavily Republican.

Vital took no chances in what was expected to be a low-turnout election. He spent nearly $121,000 through Sept. 4, according to his pre-general election disclosure filed Sept. 7, the deadline for the mandatory filing.

Jelks last reported on July 23 that he had expenditures of about $12,000 over the course of the campaign. As of Tuesday, he had not filed his required pre-general election disclosure.

Fewer than 10% of the district's 50,061 qualified voters cast a ballot.

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

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