By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
It was the last forum before Monday's early voting starts, but Thursday night's version was the first to showcase a growing feud between council hopefuls that didn't stay confined to their districts.
The format of the event, put on by the Korean Exchange Club Thursday night, was designed to allow all the candidates in attendance to give brief introductory presentations of themselves and their platforms.
But two District 4 candidates decided to use their introduction speeches to hammer each other.
Otis Evans, a candidate and a current councilman, lit the fire at the tail end of his speech by criticizing the actions and loyalties of fellow District 4 candidate Ernest Wilkerson as well as District 1 candidate Dick Young.
"What's happened in the past two weeks troubles me greatly," Evans said. "A candidate in my district, as well as a candidate in District 1, I learned that they cast their allegiance with a group of people in District 3. First and foremost, I represent District 4."
Evans is referring to an article in the Daily Herald that stated that Wilkerson and Young attended a District 3 rally at a private home in District 3's "doughnut hole" and received an endorsement from that group in addition to the support they showed for District 3 candidate John Doranski.
Evans pointed Wilkerson and Young out only by exclusion, saying he did not believe it was appropriate to name the two candidates.
"I call no names, but I think in all fairness, I should say ? Mr. (Ralph) Cossey and Mr. (Keith) Gavin don't have anything to do with this in my district, and Mr. (Juan) Rivera of District 1 doesn't have any part in it," Evans said. "Betrayal of a trust is alien to me. Remember who is loyal, Otis Evans, District 4."
Three more candidates took the floor before Wilkerson's turn to speak. He began talking about his platform, but stopped to address Evans' statements.
"My opponent talked about meeting with citizens, and if that's wrong, I'll be wrong every day," Wilkerson said. "He didn't tell you he met with the Homebuilders Association, and took money from them."
Young, who spoke earlier in the evening, did not get a chance to address Evans' statements until after the event.
"I think it's unfortunate that Mr. Evans would stoop that low, and I don't believe that dirty politics has a place in Killeen," Young said afterward. "And I hope the voters see him for what he is."
One doughnut hole resident who helped coordinate the event in question two weeks ago dismissed any notion that those residents in attendance sought or took part in a scheme to form an implied agreement or allegiance with Young or Wilkerson.
While Evans and Wilkerson called each other out, the other District 4 candidates stuck to their own platforms.
Cossey, who was the first District 4 candidate to introduce himself Thursday night, spoke of his intentions to reach out to former councilmen in the event that he is elected so that change can be properly transitioned.
"You can have experience serving along with change. ? Without them, we wouldn't be where we are," Cossey said. "You want someone who would do what you would do if you were on the city council."
Gavin followed Wilkerson and entertained the crowd.
"If you keep recycling in the same old blood, you don't have any new thinking or ideas. I want to bring in fresh ideas, see what kind of industries we can bring," Gavin said. "The more people we attract, the more funds we'll have, the more we'll be able to draw. People are frustrated because we have no industry."
Due to deadline constraints, the remaining candidates who spoke at the forum Thursday night will be featured in Saturday's edition of the Killeen Daily Herald.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.
Be informed on election day; don't miss the Killeen Daily Herald's Voters' Guide in Sunday's newspaper. It features candidate bios and interviews, early voting information and more for the contested council races in Killeen, Harker Heights, Nolanville, Copperas Cove, Lampasas and Salado, and contested school board races in Killeen and Salado ISDs and Central Texas College.
Also Sunday, viewers at KDHNEWS.COM can see video forums for the races in Killeen, Harker Heights and KISD to learn even more about the candidates.