By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Campaigning in the House District 55 race moved beyond the issues Wednesday and became personal.
Responding to implications in his opponent’s latest television ad, Republican candidate Ralph Sheffield held a press conference Wednesday to tell voters that “Sam Murphey broke his word.”
“Obviously, with an ad that broke this morning on TV, he turned very negative against my campaign,” Sheffield said. “And more than anything else, he questions my integrity, and that’s wrong.”
Sheffield said that while he understands that passionate discussion can lead to some tension in a campaign, the ad implies Sheffield would use the office to help those entities that sent money and endorsements his way.
More importantly, he said, Murphey has repeatedly said he would run a positive campaign.
After the press conference, Murphey, the Democratic nominee, said he didn’t understand why Sheffield was so offended because the facts in the ad only reference the issues.
“This is not a personal attack. If he thinks it questions his integrity, that’s his problem. The ad is accurate,” Murphey said. “Come on, fella, get some skin here. You’ve got to be tough to be a politician in the state of Texas. You can’t be some kind of guy that runs out and cries, ‘Aww, he hurt my feelings’ at the slightest drop of a hat. The fact is he cannot run from what he has done. He should embrace it, and he should be proud of it.”
Murphey said he has laid out Sheffield’s position for the voters, and Sheffield has failed to challenge the content in public forums.
“Is he going to have the backbone to stand up to the really tough negotiations in Austin? Real hardball is played down there,” Murphey said. “I didn’t question his honor, I didn’t question his morals, I didn’t question his business acumen. I said he takes money from special interests in Austin, and he supports private school vouchers, and the evidence is here.”
Murphey’s campaign provided documentation for statements made in the television ad, which will be running on three of the area’s stations until Monday.
The ad states, “Sheffield pockets big donations from Austin and fights to deregulate energy companies.” The ad goes on to say, “Our utility bills are skyrocketing, but Sheffield is fighting for the energy companies.”
Murphey’s campaign provided two articles from the Dec. 6, 2002, edition of the Houston Business Journal in which Sheffield is quoted in his official capacity as president of the Texas Restaurant Association complimenting the cost savings projected for his own business and his fellow members of the TRA. The statements were made responding to the initial cost savings projected for his fellow members.
Sheffield said Murphey is only resorting to tactics like this because he is behind in the race and desperate. Sheffield said his internal poll shows him ahead in the race by a 15-point margin.
“People that know me know I’m a man of my word, someone you can trust. Sam broke his promise to Bell County today by saying that he was going to run a positive campaign,” Sheffield said. “Obviously, he decided not to, probably because he’s supported very much so by the Blue Texas group out of Austin. They probably forced him to run these ads because he knows what I know, that I’m 15 points ahead.”
Sheffield said at the press conference that he resents the knock on his personal decision-making by saying he can be swayed by money.
“You know, I’m going to run a positive campaign. The most important thing to remember here is Sam broke his word!” Sheffield said, emphatically thumping his finger as he pointed at the large, blue sign, painted by his staff that morning.
Murphey said that it’s important to note that while Sheffield is upset, he hasn’t refuted any of the facts.
“He’s only said that it’s negative, not that it’s wrong,” Murphey said. “If it is true, and it is a negative on him, I have no problem in pointing that out to our voters. I think that’s my duty and my obligation to tell the voters where he stands.
“Mr. Sheffield is not the victim of my ad. The victims in this campaign are the voters in District 55 who believe that Mr. Sheffield has not taken money from special interests in Austin, or supported energy companies in their drive toward deregulation, or taken money from James Leininger, whose single issue is to get state money to fund private schools through vouchers.”
Sheffield said he chose to call the press conference because he feels it necessary to inform the voters what he stands for, and what his opponent did.
“You know, politics go different directions, I’m a big boy, I can handle whatever hits are out there,” Sheffield said. “I need to bring to attention that my opponent decided to go the low road and broke his word. That’s really the bottom line. He’s calling me a liar, more or less. ... I’m not going to stand for that nonsense. I’m going to defend myself.”
Murphey said to expect another ad to hit the airwaves Tuesday with a similar theme.
Contact Justin Coxat firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568.