With a day of early voting left before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, a group of candidates for county, state and national office gathered in Killeen on Thursday for a last-minute pitch to voters.
A handful of residents attended a political forum sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens Herencia Council #4297 at the Killeen Community Center — the last major forum of the season for Killeen voters.
In attendance were:
M.J. Hegar, D-Round Rock, who is running for Texas’s 31st Congressional District against incumbent Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.
Dr. Brad Buckley, R-Salado, who is running for the Texas House District 54 seat against Kathy Richerson, D-Bell County.
Incumbent John Fisher, R-Killeen, and John Driver, D-Killeen, who are both running for the Bell County Commissioner Pct. 4 seat.
David Blackburn, R-Temple, and Ernest Wilkerson, I-Killeen, a write-in candidate, who are both running for Bell County Judge.
The candidates were asked a list of wide-ranging questions pertaining to their races, including ending voter suppression and police brutality, Bell County budgeting, and boosting statewide funding for public education.
Of central concern for the county and state candidates was the 100 percent disabled veteran property tax exemption, a statewide initiative that is expected to strip around $3.5 million from the city of Killeen’s budget alone in fiscal 2019.
Buckley, whose platform includes pushing for full state reimbursement for the exemption, said tight tax revenues were having a negative impact on the exact demographic the exemption was designed to aid — veterans.
“When you hurt the quality of life of that sits next to ‘The Great Place’ (Fort Hood), you hurt ‘The Great Place,” Buckley said. “It is time for the state of Texas to fund that exemption.”
Blackburn, a former city manager of Killeen and Temple, agreed that the county and state needed to work together to seek state funding for the exemption and other “unfunded mandates” on the whole.
“That program needs to be fully funded and expanded,” Blackburn said, referring to the disproportionate impact aid cities like Killeen receive while Harker Heights receives none. “That is not to say the exemption should go away, but it is an example of an unfunded mandate that was handed down and no is having a disproportionate impact on our communities.”
Early voting for the midterm ends today. Election Day is Tuesday.