By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
In the final weeks leading up to a long-awaited Republican primary runoff, candidates continued to spend, with some making last-minute loans to their campaigns.
In bright red Bell County, the winner of the Republican primary runoff is generally considered a shoe-in to win the general election in November. Most races have failed to attract a Democrat.
The exception is the race to succeed Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith Jr., the most expensive of all the county races. Smith is retiring after seven straight terms.
State election law required candidates to file a report of their campaign donations and expenditures last Monday.
Reports indicate that sheriff candidate and current Precinct 3 County Commissioner Eddy Lange made a last-minute $10,000 loan from his personal finances to his campaign.
His Republican rival, former Bell County Jail administrator Bob Patterson, has raised and spent more money than Lange, according to reports filed.
In total, Patterson raised nearly $77,000 and spent a little less than $72,000 in printing, advertising and event costs. Lange, on the other hand, spent about $55,000 and raised just under $45,000.
The amount of money the two Republicans amassed dwarfs the $4,178 Democrat candidate Frank Hernandez raised. With no primary opponent, Hernandez has not needed to spend money to guarantee his position on November's ballot.
Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston called early voting turnout so far "tremendous" and "unexpected."
Though Williamson County's population exceeds Bell County's by 110,000 people, voter turnout in both counties has been nearly parallel.
Lange has said he expected turnout to be at about 25 percent of the total for the primary. However, early voting numbers show it has already topped 36 percent of the number of votes cast in the May 29 primary.
Bell County's voters have turned out most often in Temple and Belton, highlighting the importance of winning ballot boxes in those regions.
Through Thursday, 80.1 percent of Republican ballots had been cast at early voting locations in Belton and Temple. Killeen made up just over 10 percent of the turnout for the runoff, and Harker Heights voters cast about 7.8 percent of Republican ballots.
The disparity has likely been exacerbated by the runoff election race for Precinct 3 commissioner between Bill Schumann and Marty Janczak.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.