Marianne Miller didn’t originally think her organization needed an office. But after she opened the Bell County Democratic Party Headquarters in Killeen last month, she’s recruited numerous volunteers and helped residents register to vote.
“It’s not my place or the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ place to tell a person how to vote,” said Miller, chairwoman of the Bell County Democrats. “This building gives us a good venue for bringing the debate so people can hear both sides of any issue and make an informed decision.”
Miller said the headquarters
provides office space for Louie Minor, the Democratic candidate for Congress in District 31, as well as a free location where the party can host movie nights to watch and discuss documentaries or bring candidates in to meet constituents.
Among her goals, Miller said she wants to turn the state and the county blue — the color traditionally associated with the Democratic Party.
“There’s still that mindset that this is a Republican county and that you can’t win here,” she said. “That just simply isn’t true.”
Nancy Boston, Bell County Republican Party chairwoman, said it’s good that the Democrats have the opportunity to reach out to residents through its headquarters.
“I don’t know that the Democrats have been very active here in Bell County lately,” Boston said. “It’s good that they’re able to have a central location.”
Both Boston and Miller said it’s important for voters to be educated.
One way voters can become more informed about the electoral process and current issues is through the Texas Politics Project, a collection of enterprises designed to encourage informed interest and engagement in state politics and government.
Jim Henson, director of the project and a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said turning Bell County blue is “a pretty uphill battle.”
“Bell County is a very Republican county, particularly in the off-year statewide elections,” Henson said.
The short-term successes of having a Democratic presence in Bell County doesn’t mean the party is going to win a lot of races immediately, just that they’ll lose by a smaller margin, he said.
“The way that you see political changes like this happen is you see increase in competition between the two parties,” Henson said. Right now, Democrats lack competitive candidates in many of the statewide races and there’s even slimmer pickings for Democratic candidates in local races.
“Voter turnout is part of it,” Henson said. “Part of the effort to get things to be slowly more competitive is for the Democrats to identify voters and get (them to the polls).”
Both Boston and Miller said it’s important for residents to pay attention to smaller and larger races and be informed year-round.
“Basically, what we want to do is educate people in the political process,” Boston said. “The more information we can give out to people, the more we can educate people about the electoral process.”