HARKER HEIGHTS — Scott Cosper and Brad Buckley, candidates for Texas House District 54, are immersed in a runoff election on May 22 for a spot on the Republican side of the ballot, but only Buckley attended a political forum in Harker Heights Thursday night.
“I’ve been on the longest job interview of my life,” Buckley said, smiling. In his closing remarks to the 20 attendees, he promised to be an available, approachable representative.
“Hire me on May 22 and Nov. 3 and two years from now I will be right here at the next forum,” he said. “When I represent you, you’re the boss.”
He proceeded to give the audience his personal cell phone number.
The winner of the District 54 runoff will face Democrat Kathy Richerson in the general election Nov. 6.
The forum was held by the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Herencia Council 4297, in partnership with the Stars & Stripes Exchange Club. Audience members had the opportunity to write questions for the candidates, and each had an equal time to respond.
“Forums like these are important to get people informed and know who is running and what they stand for,” said Minerva Cotton, LULAC secretary.
The race for the Texas House has been especially contentious, with Buckley looking to deny Cosper a second term.
Both candidates have a history in Killeen, with Cosper serving five terms on the city council and one as mayor, while Buckley has an established veterinary practice and five years on the school board. Buckley touted his experience as a business owner, rancher and veterinarian. “I have a background as a problem solver,” he said.
Cosper and Buckley are going to a runoff because, on March 6, primary voters could not decide among the three initial candidates on the ballot. Cosper received 44.56 of the ballots and Buckley garnered 41.58 percent of the vote.
The first question Buckley faced was property taxes, followed by water issues.
“I’m afraid to open my recent appraisal,” Buckley said. “It can be a shocking thing to see.”
He said he wants to create a system with “accountability and predictability so people can budget accordingly.”
When it comes to water, Buckley emphasized the importance of maintaining and protecting local water sources. “We don’t need any more water piped to Georgetown,” Buckley said.
Buckley also tackled health care issues.
“Lack of healthcare, especially in rural areas, affects the continued growth in Texas,” he said. “Developers and potential businesses look at the availability of healthcare” as part of their decision-making process.
“Our health care system is broken; it’s not affordable to many people,” Buckley said. “Our communities need to come together to bridge gaps without waiting on government to be involved. It is one area, though, where government can have a role with commonsense regulation.”
Education was another hot topic.
Buckley advocated simplifying the public school funding system. “It’s too complicated,” he said. “Recapture will have to continue in one way or another, but we need to try real local control and take away the current cookie cutter system.”
At a previous forum held before the primary, Cosper touted his role in the 85th Legislature in appropriating an additional $1.8 billion in public education financing.
U.S. House of Representatives District 31
Seeking the U.S. House District 31 seat are Democrats MJ Hegar and Dr. Christine Mann, who will vie for the nomination in a May 22 runoff. Neither Hegar nor Mann were able to attend the forum, but Mann sent her communications director to give a speech and answer questions on her behalf.
Nicole Crean spoke about Mann’s activism and how her ability to find solutions for her patients would translate into finding solutions for her constituents. She promised transparency. “I have 10,000 reasons for running for office because of 10,000 people and their stories,” Crean said.
Incumbent Rep. John Carter was unopposed in the Republican primary and was not at the forum.
Harker Heights council race
Jeff Orlando and Michael Blomquist, who are running for City Council Place 2, attended the forum. Incumbent Councilwoman Jody Nicholas at Place 5 is unopposed.
Orlando and challenger Blomquist sat side by side at a table, shook hands, and proceeded to answer a wide array of questions, mainly about issues of growth in the city.
“Our unbelievable growth is putting a lot of stress on our resources,” Orlando said. His priorities are dealing with traffic issues, getting more local and regional businesses in the city, and improving the area of the city around Veteran’s Memorial Blvd. “It’s basically been forgotten,” he said.
Orlando touted his business experience while Blomquist spoke about his military background.
“Our budgets have never been in the red, and with the new homes coming in we’ll have continuing property rise which will help fund infrastructure,” Orlando said.
Blomquist agreed the budget “is mostly on track.”
“But we need to look at some of the expenditures and make sure we’re maximizing what we have,” he said. “I ask if we’re adding enough to the infrastructure budget so we can plan smart for future growth.”
More forums to come
Area voters will have two more chances in April to attend a forum:
April 17: Forum and luncheon held from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Central Texas Home Builders Association, 445 E. Central Texas Expressway. Candidates running for the Harker Heights City Council and the KISD board of trustees will be in attendance. The event is held by the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and the cost is $15 per person.
April 19: Forum from 6-8 p.m. at the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E Veterans Memorial Blvd. LULAC Herencia Council 4297 will host a forum for the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 board of directors election. Three candidates are running for two at-large seats.