By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The battle for the Republican nomination for the Texas House District 55 seat will be decided today.
By all accounts, the runoff election between the Temple tandem of Martha Tyroch and Ralph Sheffield is expected to be close, but by no means will the house seat be finalized.
The victor still has to face Democrat Sam Murphey in the November general election.
Murphey said Saturday that he is excited about getting off the "sidelines."
Polls for today's election are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
After the final ballots were cast in the early voting period, the total amounted to more than 2,800, a figure expected to be doubled when the last votes are counted tonight.
The early voting numbers will be announced soon after voting closes at the office of Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston, who will coordinate the count with Election Judge Jana Henderson.
Coston said Friday that she expects at least some of today's tally to start coming in by 7:30 or 8 p.m.
The final day of early voting drew more than 800 votes districtwide, bringing the total to 2,844 for the week. District 55 includes Temple, Belton, Harker Heights and most of rural Bell County.
Tyroch and Sheffield have been battling for the GOP nomination to capture the Texas House District 55 seat since emerging as the party's top two vote-getters in the primary.
Although the Democratic presidential race drew a record number of voters in the March 4 primary, voting in the District 55 runoff today will be limited to those who cast a Republican ballot March 4 or those registered voters who did not cast a ballot at all, but who remain eligible to vote.
In addition, the number of polling locations have been trimmed, down to 19 from the original 49 precincts. That is mandated by the state, but isn't expected to pose a problem.
More than 17,000 voters cast a ballot in the March 4 Republican primary, but Jana Henderson said she expects to reach a little more than one-third of that figure by the end of today's count.
Still, she said, the numbers have still been impressive for a runoff election.
"I think it will be busy on Tuesday because the attention has been focused on April 8," she said. "We've actually prepared for all the new voters who voted on election day, which was 11,000. I don't think it will be quite that busy, though."
She said it's clear the District 55 race has fueled voter turnout, as Killeen, in District 54, had just 73 voters turn out all week. Compare that to Temple, where 1,477 people showed up. Harker Heights, also in District 55, had a showing of 347, only seven of whom cast a Democratic ballot.
"Killeen's early voting was really slow, but we expected that because they aren't in District 55," Henderson said. "Precinct 109 in Temple was one of the busiest districts."
A runoff for Democratic candidates for Railroad Commissioner between Dale Henry and Mark Thompson also will be decided today.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568