NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — By the time the votes were counted, two of the three candidates vying to be the Republican nominee for property assessor in Tennessee's Unicoi County had died. One of them was the winner.

First, Interim Assessor of Property Wayne Peterson died of cancer last month, while early voting was underway. On election day Tuesday, candidate Margaret Seward died, apparently of a massive heart attack. Had she lived, she would have been declared the winner of the race after getting 48 percent of the vote, said Sarah Bailey, election administrator for the rural county straddling the North Carolina border.

"I have not spoken to anyone who has ever experienced two candidates dying while running for the same office," Bailey said. She called the deaths "horrible, coincidental tragedies."

Unicoi County Republican Party Chairman Jim Buchanan said Seward was only 54, and left behind three children and a husband.

Candidate Alan "Rocky" McInturrff, the lone living contender, received 34 percent of the vote, Bailey said, and Peterson captured 17 percent.

It will be up to the local GOP to decide who will be on the ballot in the August general election, Buchanan said.