By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

With less than two weeks before the March 4 primary election, the four Republican candidates in the District 55 election are gearing up for the stretch run.

This leg of the race for candidates Martha Tyroch, Ralph Sheffield, Mike Pearce and John Alaniz will likely be only the precursor for a runoff between the top two, which will take place, if necessary, on April 8.

Democratic candidate Sam Murhpey is unapposed in the primary. With the start of early voting Tuesday, two of the Temple candidates, Tyroch and Sheffield, have begun filling the airwaves with television commercials, outpacing their counterparts on funding at this point in the race.

Sheffield said it's all a part of his plan to be accessible and let the public see him.

"I'm just trying to be visible," Sheffield said Tuesday, a few hours before he and his wife cast their votes. "When people see you, accessibility is everything, I'm just trying to show people that I'm accessible. We've been making phone calls to get the word out ? The use of technology with MySpace and YouTube, we're telling people to go vote early."

Tyroch's commercials, produced by Anthem Media, are also visible via the same Internet destinations for those residents who haven't seen them already. The ad entitled "A True Servant's Heart, Getting Results and Making a Difference" has been running since Monday.

"It is definitely an exciting time in the history of Bell County, and I encourage all voters to exercise their right to vote," Tyroch said. "When elected, I always will be available to the constituents, as we work together to achieve the best results for Bell County."

Her daughter, Melissa Tyroch, functioning as a media relations contact, said that this element in the process is simply the next step and that the campaign has really changed very little at this stage. She described it as another progression in a process that began at the end of 2007.

Harker Heights' Mike Pearce said he has not decided whether he will run any television ads at this point, but he will be running a radio spot this weekend. Like the other three candidates, he did say he went out and voted on the first day of early voting.

"I've been spending most of the time reminding people that today is the first day of the vote," Pearce said Tuesday. "The next couple weeks I'm going to be pounding the pavement. I have some coffee meetings set up, another radio show to do possibly."

In his rookie campaign, Pearce said he's looking forward to the ride that will be the next 10 days.

"It's been exciting; the same time, it's been nerve-racking, it's been fun," Pearce said. "I've got a real sense of satisfaction, a lot of really good ideas and what's great is the amount of people that have talked to me about issues. I've had a blast. Getting the support of really all the big name conservative organizations in Texas ? It's very humbling."

Pearce said that if he decides to go with television commercials, it will be next week.

While John Alaniz said he has no plans at this point for any television ads, he's gained confidence from the people who have spoken with him on the first day of the elections. Alaniz sported a suntan Wednesday, which he said is not from basking in the Caribbean, but staying at polling locations all day.

"It was a fun time; we had a lot of great feedback from drivers and people going into the polls," he said. "I hear it was a record turnout at the polling locations."

Alaniz said that like some of the other candidates, the campaign has changed little for him, except that there is less time as the days progress.

"We've got a lot of momentum still, we still get a lot of requests for signs," Alaniz said. "I've had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that they were supporting me, and I feel the momentum, and I'm encouraged."

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