CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A candidate for a Tennessee House seat is facing rape allegations on the heels of the special election in his race, prompting his resignation from a local Democratic Party position and a denial in which he called the relationship “consensual yet inappropriate.”
On the day of the special election held Tuesday, DeAngelo Jelks posted an apology to his wife in a social media response in which he also claims he did nothing illegal. He said he is “focused on restructuring my personal life, and reconnecting spiritually." Election results had not yet begun coming in yet.
“As far as the elephant in the room, I know that I have let down my supporters, family and friends by having a consensual yet inappropriate relationship," Jelks, a 40-year-old U.S. Army Reserve captain from Ooltewah, posted on Facebook. "This matter was personal and private between two consenting adults, and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
A Chattanooga Police spokesperson confirmed to news outlets that a rape report was filed Sunday and cannot be shared until the investigation is completed.
Jelks resigned Sunday as Hamilton County Democratic Party vice chairman, county party chairman Rodney Strong told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He does not currently face any charges over the allegations.
Chattanooga Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod told news outlets the alleged victim — a woman who had worked with Jelks during his campaign — reached out to her. Coonrod told the Times Free Press she encouraged the woman to go to the police, saying the woman did so Sunday and got a DNA swab.
Coonrod said in a statement Sunday that “allegations of rape and sexual misconduct” were made against an “up-and-coming leader of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.” Coonrod, who said she's a survivor of sexual assault, wrote that it's the party's “moment to rise to the occasion by standing for true democratic values and supporting women.”
Jelks' social media response says “what should’ve been handled privately has become public because a local politician chose to martyr me for her own positioning."
Jelks faces Republican Greg Vital in the House District 29 race in northern and eastern parts of Hamilton County. The winner will replace Republican Rep. Joan Carter, who has temporarily replaced her late husband Mike Carter, who died in May after battling pancreatic cancer. He had served in the Tennessee House since 2013.