Harker Heights voters followed the countywide trend in tossing out two incumbents in Tuesday’s Republican runoff election.
In the House District 54 race, ballots cast during early voting and Election Day balloting heavily favored challenger Dr. Brad Buckley over first-term incumbent Rep. Scott Cosper. Voters also gave a strong majority to challenger Bobby Whitson in his upset victory over Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown, a six-term incumbent.
Unofficial results released Tuesday night showed Buckley with 2,889 total votes in Bell County to Cosper’s 2,117 — a margin of 57.7 to 42.3 percent.
The race between Brown and Whitson was closer, with Whitson winning by a margin of 304 votes — 1,804 to 1,496.
In Harker Heights, 1,247 votes were cast in the District 54 race, with 697 of them, or nearly 56 percent of them — going to Buckley, a Killeen veterinarian who lives in Salado.
Nolanville voters also went strong for Buckley, giving him 213 votes to Cosper’s total of 177.
Buckley’s Salado ties were especially evident in voting there, as he drew 781 votes to Cosper’s 450 in the village, winning more than 63 percent of the vote.
Brown’s hometown of Salado also gave him an edge Tuesday, with voters there favoring him 720 votes to 487 for Whitson, a local credit union president. However, the 233-vote advantage wasn’t enough to overcome Whitson’s support across the rest of Precinct 2.
Buckley’s strong showing Tuesday was somewhat surprising, considering he had finished 320 votes behind Cosper in the March 6 primary voting — 4,472 votes to 4,173 — with third-place finisher Larry Smith drawing 1,390 votes in that contest.
However, on Tuesday, Buckley took 18 of 20 Bell County precincts, winning by a margin of 772 votes. He also took Lampasas County by 488 votes, 1,556 to 1,068.
The campaign between Buckley and Cosper, a former Killeen mayor and councilman, became testy in the race’s final days, with both candidates accusing each other of misrepresenting the facts on property tax reform, campaign endorsements and nursing home funding legislation. The two campaigns mailed out dozens of flyers to district residents over the last three weeks of the campaign.
Cosper also reportedly outspent Buckley’s campaign by a 5-to-1 margin, thanks in part to an influx of money from two conservative state political action committees.
In the end, Buckley, said, getting out and meeting district residents proved to be the difference.
“It was a grassroots win, very old fashioned, door to door and hug to hug,” Buckley said Tuesday night. “We worked very hard, my family and supporters.”
Cosper didn’t respond to the Herald’s request for comment, but posted on his Facebook site, “Now is the time to put the competition of the campaign behind us and unite as a community,” he wrote. “At the end of the day, all we want is for Central Texas to remain the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Regarding the candidates’ campaign sniping, Buckley said, “He (Cosper) and I will likely get together and talk about things like two men,” Buckley said. “This whole campaign was just about different ideas, nothing personal. I’ve learned politics gets kind of crazy, and that happens.”
Buckley will face Democrat Kathy Richerson of rural Bell County in the November general election, with the winner taking office in Austin in January. Richerson was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Whitson, who doesn’t have an opponent in November, will assume the Precinct 2 seat on the Bell County Commissioners Court early next year.
Kyle Blankenship contributed to this report.
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