By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The volleys in the campaigns for the House District 55 seat continue between Democrat nominee Sam Murphey and Republican nominee Ralph Sheffield with accusations Tuesday that the other misrepresented their views.
In a television and mail campaign, Murphey charges Sheffield with a weak stance on illegal immigration, saying he is influenced by his years as president of the Texas Restaurant Association. The latest TV ad says Sheffield does not support financial punishment against business owners who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.
As support, Murphey provided documentation from the political courage test on smartvote.org. The site carries a list of numerous issues and stances from a variety of political fields, and asks the candidates which stances they would support if elected to office. Those candidates in support of a position have a check in the box next to the question.
"He did not check that box," Murphey said of at a press conference Tuesday afternoon outside his campaign headquarters in Temple. "You know my stance on my four-point plan, and one of those is that you should put a penalty on employers who knowingly hire illegals. My opponent has pointed out clearly that he does not believe in that."
At his campaign headquarters later Tuesday afternoon, Sheffield and his campaign staff displayed the Web page sourced byMurphey. Sheffield's staff eagerly showed a checked box indicating "Support for financial punishment against business owners who knowingly employ illegal immigrants."
It appeared to be a direct contridiction of Murphey's ad.
Sheffield criticized Murphey for misrepresenting the Temple business owner's stance on immigration, calling it a lie and a cheap ploy to discredit him.
But later, Sheffield's campaign manager, Will Franklin, admitted the check box was just changed that day.
Franklin and political director Scott Radcliffe said it was simply a late correction of an answer that was listed incorrectly on the site. That information should have been fixed in September, Franklin said, went they sent an E-mail to the site.
The staff members said the ad from Murphey gave them the motivation to check around for such omissions.
A representative with votesmart.org said it does not condone the use of information from the Web site in a partisan campaign. The item from the site is Murphey's primary source material for the latest advertisement.
The staffers said neither Sheffield nor political consultant Ted Delisi were aware of the change until they were phoned late in the afternoon Tuesday.
The staffers, Delisi and Sheffield were steadfast in the consistent stance of the campaign toward the issue of penalizing business owners who encouraged the practice.
Murphey himself was present during one such occasion.
During their second public forum together on Sept. 30 at the Central Texas Council of Governments building, Murphey spoke of his four-point plan to handle immigration.
"We should crack down on our employers who don't check paperwork," Murphey said at that forum while seated next to Sheffield. "We have to do something with our border. Physical barriers, there are ways you can keep an eye on our border."
Sheffield didn't dispute any of Murphey's plan at that time. Instead, he complimented them.
"That's a very good outline there, Sam," Sheffield said, nodding his head in agreement when Murphey finished.
Sheffield has said during several public forums he does not believe in employers acting as police, and does not believe there should be a law in place to require employers to sign up for an online verification system, which he has used for many years.
Tuesday, Murphey said he is not implying Sheffield has ever been guilty of knowingly hiring illegal aliens at Las Casas, his restaurant in Temple.
Sheffield's ad targets Murphey's stance against reform for voter ID and appraisal values, and says he is heavily supported by Austin-based trial lawyers – nothing Sheffield hasn't stated repeatedly in public forums in the past two months.
The back-and-forth between camps heated up a week ago, when a Murphey ad claimed Sheffield is a supporter of school vouchers and energy companies. Sheffield answered with a press conference, standing next to a sign which read "Sam Murphey broke his word," which refers to Murphey's promise of running a positive campaign.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.