By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

Things may get more interesting in the District 55 race as the candidates indicated they will take a more aggressive stance in the days ahead.

Republican Ralph Sheffield and Democrat Sam Murphey will participate in their second public forum tonight at 7 p.m. at the Central Texas Council of Governments building in Belton.

Both candidates indicated that last Thursday's forum in Harker Heights was an exciting start. Murphey went after Sheffield on his positions on school vouchers and appraisal caps. That night, Sheffield sent out a release to his supporters saying he didn't appreciate Murphey's tactics.

Sheffield claims Murphey was running a negative campaign.

"It was a spirited debate and my opponent showed his true colors, attacking at every turn while refusing to stand up and give a positive vision for Bell County," Sheffield said in the release. "I continue to speak about a positive message of lower taxes, private property rights and excellence in education."

Sheffield further said Murphey didn't represent the kind of philosophy that Bell County expects.

"A conservative philosophy, one that respects low taxes, one that respects the integrity of voting and one that respects small business owners, is best for Bell County," he said in the release. "Humbly, that's what I hope to offer. Quite simply, my opponent does not."

On Monday, Murphey said it was good to get into the fray, and he looks forward to tonight's debate to show the differences in philosophies.

"Positive message? I thought my message is more positive than his, he advocates taking money from schools," Murphey said. "I look at the free market Web site, and it said he strongly supported private school vouchers, which take money away from schools and education. He's taken (more than $27,000) from the largest school voucher supporter in the state."

Murphey also said Sheffield shouldn't get so defensive about the facts of his positions.

"I would expect him not to be defensive when somebody points that out," Murphey said. "If he believes that, he should stand up and say so. It's my obligation to stand up and show the differences between us. ... I will not engage in public character assassination. I'm not calling him names, I'm not disparaging his character or deflating his name."

Contact Justin Cox at or (254) 501-7568.

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