By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - In the Republican primary election for Bell County sheriff, Eddy Lange and Bob Patterson advanced to a summer runoff.
In unofficial election results, Lange garnered 42.1 percent or 6,792 votes. The Bell County Precinct 3 commissioner had 464 more votes than Patterson, who had 39.2 percent of the vote. The two candidates will face off in a primary runoff July 31 since neither received more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election.
Precinct 1 Constable Luis Cortez came in third place with 14.6 percent or 2,360 votes, followed by home builder Keith Lee with 4.1 percent or 664 votes.
"We gave ourselves a 5 percent chance that this wouldn't involve a runoff," said Lange, 57, who added that he's prepared to continue his primary campaign.
But even with only a narrow lead, Lange said he was happy with the election results. "It feels like a victory to me."
Patterson, 55, said that despite a primary campaign season that was extended because of redistricting battles, he was eager to continue, too. "It looks like we're in it for another two months," said Patterson, the former jail administrator at the Bell County Jail. "One, we're prepared. Second, we're looking forward to it."
The Republican primary winner will face the sole Democrat challenger Frank Hernandez in the November general election.
The sheriff's race became hotly contested last July when Bell County Sheriff Dan Smith announced his plans to retire and not seek re-election. He has won seven elections, usually uncontested.
Following Smith's announcement, a cascade of candidates sought his office, including Lange or Cortez who will leave their posts at the end of the year.
Despite several local races, Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston said voter turnout was low. She estimated that about half as many people voted in Tuesday's primary election as in 2008.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.