• November 28, 2014

Bell campaign donations show east-west split

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Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 10:49 am, Mon Feb 17, 2014.

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

Recent Bell County campaign finance reports show that candidates received most of their political donations from Belton and Temple, even though the combined Killeen-Harker Heights area has a larger population and more eligible voters.

Of the seven candidates running for sheriff and county attorney, none call Killeen or Harker Heights home. Most of them reside in either Temple or Belton.

Of 302 individual donations in those two county races during the latest filing period, 201 came from Belton and Temple addresses. Donations totaled nearly $83,000 and more than $60,000 - 73 percent - came from donors living in those eastern cities.

Only 14 percent of money donated came from Killeen and Harker Heights. Residents of Salado, a town with one-tenth of Harker Heights' population, contributed almost twice as much to county campaigns than the city west of Nolanville hill.

Bell County Republican chairwoman Nancy Boston attributed the county's political donation disparity to population characteristics. "Temple and Belton were here and established for a long time," she said. "Killeen has had its rapid growth in the last decade or two decades."

The significant population spike in Killeen and Harker Heights is attributed largely to Fort Hood's growth, and Boston said the normally transient military population has led to a disconnect with local governments. "It's just a trend that has been there because of deployments and families moving around," she said. "You have that fluid movement."

Seek out supporters

Bell County sheriff candidate Bob Patterson, who led all county candidates in fundraising with nearly $38,000 in donations, also said deployments and the norms of military life play a part in the political donors. Sixty-one percent of his donations came from Temple and Belton.

"If you listen to some people, they say the east side (of Bell County) tends to vote a little more often," said Patterson, the former administrator at the Bell County Jail.

Among Patterson's donors are area lawyers, an auto dealer, home building political action committees and County Attorney Rick Miller. He also received $1,100 from four companies that provide services for jails.

Bell County attorney candidate Bobby Barina, a Temple resident with a private law practice in Harker Heights, said candidates tend to solicit donations from people they know, who usually live in their community.

Barina received 83 percent of his donations from residents in Temple and Belton. Several donations totalling $436 came from attorney Jeff Parker, who has an office in Belton. Barina said he asked Parker to be his first assistant county attorney if elected.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner Eddy Lange, who also is running for sheriff, raised the second highest amount for his campaign - more than $27,000 - 61 percent from Temple and Belton. Lange said the east-west county disparity also might exist because candidates look to their base supporters for donations.

"My base is on the central and east side," said Lange. "I've been elected eight times over here. I have a stronger base over here with the people who have supported me in the past."

Lange also received the lone donation from the small town where he lives: Heidenheimer, which is southeast of Belton. But he held a fundraising event in Killeen last week, which he said could be his biggest event yet.

East vs. west

Political conflicts have arisen in county races in the past, pitting the east side against the west side, said Lange. It was one of the reasons he initially did not intend to file for the sheriff's race when Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke, a Killeen resident, expressed interest in running.

"I was very comfortable being a county commissioner, but when Bill backed out at the last minute, I had no choice but to go into the race," said Lange.

Killeen has not held any political forums hosting county candidates, either. While several have been conducted in Belton, Temple and Salado, only one forum has been held on the west side, in Harker Heights.

Boston said that several political events, such as forums hosted by the Central Texas Republican Women and the Bell County Bar Association, have traditional settings in Belton and Temple. She said the two eastern cities also are more centrally located in the county.

First Assistant County Attorney Jim Nichols, who raised 51 percent of $16,400 in donations from Temple and Belton, said part of the west county disengagement may arise from the large amount of municipal politics in Killeen. Saturday's election, which has 26 candidates seeking city council seats, could be drowning out county politics, he said.

But with more than a decade of substantial growth - Killeen and Harker Heights have nearly double the population of Belton and Temple - earning the support of west Bell County could mean winning county elections.

"For the first time in my recollection, the west side could control the election," said Lange. "If we get the numbers there, we could win the election without a runoff."

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

Bell County campaign donors*

City Donors Amount Population

Temple 102 $32,630.23 66,102

Belton 99 $27,623.03 18,216

Killeen 30 $7,780 129,921

Salado 29 $6,200 2,126

Harker Heights 18 $3,655 26,700

Rogers 7 $1,550 1,218

Little River-Academy 5 $1,200 1,961

Troy 5 $700 1,645

Copperas Cove 3 $700 32,032

Holland 3 $500 1,121

Nolanville 0 0 4,259

Other 32 $8,750 N/A

*Note: Donors for county attorney and sheriff's races only.

Source: Campaign finance reports, U.S. Census Bureau

At a glance: Campaign finance reports

Sheriff

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Bob Patterson $37,812 $16,191

Eddy Lange $27,059 $31,013

Luis Cortez $6,988 $6,806

Frank Hernandez $3,272 $1,959

Keith Lee Did not file Did not file

County Attorney

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Jim Nichols $16,400 $18,694

Bobby Barina $5,286 $15,484

Precinct 3 County Commissioner

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Milton Lentz $525 $1,584

Bill Schumann $2,810 $9,179

Marty Janczak $8,145 $2,819

Billy Crow Did not file Did not file

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Richard Jaramillo $2,320 $4,601

Mike Medrano $1,988 $1,373

David Barfield $1,400 $5,619

Precinct 1 Constable

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Linnie McCall $825 $733

Eleno Alvarado Did not file Did not file

Precinct 2 Constable

Candidate Contributions Expenditures

Oscar "Rolly" Correa $4,341 $5,539

Roger Laird Did not file Did not file

- Compiled by Phil Jankowski

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