By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON — Republican voters have picked Eddy Lange to be their candidate for November's election for Bell County sheriff.
Lange, the Precinct 3 county commissioner, beat Republican rival Bob Patterson by 10 percentage points in Tuesday's runoff election.
In unofficial final totals, Lange garnered 7,524 votes to 6,124 for Patterson.
Lange will face Democrat challenger Frank Hernandez Sr. in November's general election. The winner will be Bell County's first new sheriff in 28 years, succeeding Dan Smith Jr., who is retiring.
However, with Lange's broad base of support and local partisan trends, his fiercest contest is possibly behind him.
"This is a stepping stone," Lange said. "What we have to do is work (with Republican voters) so we are united from the sheriff, to the courthouse to the White House."
Lange fought off a formidable opponent in Patterson, the former administrator for Bell County Jail who resigned last year to run for sheriff.
During a protracted campaign complicated by redistricting fights, Patterson continually touted his management experience in the sheriff's office and garnered an endorsement from Smith.
"This has been my 10th contested election and by far the cleanest campaign I have ever experienced," Lange said. "The voters of Bell County appreciate that."
Patterson said the two handled the campaign as "gentlemen." With his campaign now over, he said he would take some time with his family before exploring his options for the future.
"We're two different guys," Patterson said. "We had two positions, and we offered voters a choice, and they made one."
Smith is retiring when his term expires at the end of the year. He was elected sheriff seven straight times, serving as the county's top law enforcement official for 28 years.
"The biggest part about being sheriff is understanding that everyday you work for the citizens of Bell County," Smith said.
146th District County judge
In another countywide race, Temple lawyer Jack Jones was elected 146th District County judge with more than 56 percent of the vote, beating out fellow lawyer Mary Black Pearson.
Jones said he had a "great sense of appreciation," for the support.
"It feels great. It is such a relief," Jones said.
"My family and I worked so hard."
Jones has no Democrat challenger in the fall and will succeed retiring Judge Rick Morris.
Jones also expressed appreciation toward Pearson.
"Mary is a great candidate, a great lady and a great lawyer," Jones said.
Pearson was not reachable at press time.
Precinct 3 county commissioner
The closest race of all was between Bill Schumann and Marty Janczak, who vied for Precinct 3 county commissioner.
Separated by 125 votes, Schumann edged out Janczak with 48.9 percent of the vote. He will face Democrat Billy Ray Crow in November's election.
Turnout in Tuesday's runoff was well beyond what officials had expected. Some had expected about 25 percent of people who voted in the May 29 primary to return to the polls Tuesday. Turnout came in near 85 percent of the primary's total.
However, in Killeen turnout was especially low. On Election Day, the precinct covering Salado out-voted all 10 of Killeen's precincts. In total, 1,287 people voted in Killeen's precincts, compared to 4,499 in Temple.
It reflected an election that centered on Precinct 3. All six candidates in contested elections hail from the Temple-area precinct, and voter turnout was highest there.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Unofficial vote totals
Bell County sheriff
Eddy Lange, 7,524, 55.13 percent
Bob Patterson, 6,124, 44.87 percent
146th District Court judge
Jack Jones, 7,626, 56.42 percent
Mary Black Pearson, 5,890, 43.58 percent
Precinct 3 County commissioner
Bill Schumann, 2,828, 51.1 percent
Marty Janczak, 2,703, 48.9 percent