With 100 candidates and 10 propositions between the Republican and Democratic parties’ primary ballots in Bell County, there are plenty of reasons to head to the polls Tuesday.
“I think any election is very important,” said Nancy Boston, the Bell County Republican Party chairwoman. “I don’t care if it is a school board or a city council. If we can get people involved in the process, we are going to be better.”
Candidates are vying for positions on the federal, state, county, and judicial levels of government.
Several of the positions are contested, including the U.S. Senate seat, which has more than five candidates in each party.
“It really doesn’t matter what party you vote for, because it whittles down the candidate pool,” said Shawn Snyder, Bell County elections administrator. “The primaries are a really good way to consolidate behind one strong candidate.”
The Republican ballot could decide several Bell County elections, as there were no Democrats who filed to serve as representatives at the county level, Snyder said.
Those races include the county clerk, district clerk, 264th district judge and county court-at-law No. 1 judge positions.
“For the Republicans locally there are some pretty hot races,” Snyder said. “There are a lot of signs out for the district clerk and the county clerk.”
Democrats should still turn out to vote in the party’s primary elections despite a lack of county candidates, said Marianne Miller, the Bell County Democratic Party chairwoman. Several state and federal positions are contested, and the primary election also is a chance to show the county which political party its residents belong to.
“If everyone comes out, votes the way they do in presidential elections, than we have a good opportunity to turn Bell County Democratic,” she said.
This is a big year for the Texas governor race with a nonincumbent candidate seeking the top office, Miller said. If Texas chooses a Democratic governor, some things will change.
Another reason to vote during the primary elections is the party propositions, which show elected officials and the party how their partisan constituents feel about certain issues.
“It also is a really good way for parties to set their party platforms by finding out what is important to their voters via the referendums (propositions on both parties’ ballots),” Snyder said.
Republicans have six propositions on the ballot, while the Democrats have five.
“These are important things that they think people are interested in,” Boston said.
ON THE BALLOT
Here is a look at the contested races in Central Texas. For more on each candidate, including video interviews, go to KDHnews.com/centerforpolitics.
District Judge, 264th Judicial District
First elected to the bench in 1994, Martha J. “Janie” Trudo is seeking re-election. Trudo is a former active-duty Army judge advocate general and a retired Army Reserve colonel. She is running for her sixth term.
Jeff Parker, who is challenging Trudo, repeatedly said he is “a single-issue candidate” running to help spur the creation of a veterans court in Bell County. He attended Baylor University for both undergrad and law school. He has worked as an attorney since 1999.
Judge, Court-at-Law No. 1
Two candidates are vying for an open seat.
Jeanne Parker, 65, of Belton, an assistant county attorney who prosecutes Child Protective Services cases. In her current position, which she has held since 2009, Parker works alongside investigators from CPS’ parent agency, the Department of Family Protective Services.
Ken Valka, 66, of Belton, has been a partner at the law firm of Baird, Crews, Schiller & Whitaker since 2007. At various campaign appearances, Valka, a 13-year resident of Bell County, serves on the board of the Central Texas United Way — and has 40 years of experience as a trial lawyer.
Three candidates entered the open race for district clerk.
Jeanne Guthrie has spent the last 15 years in the district clerk’s office, currently serving as chief deputy. She said she doesn’t have any grand plans for spending taxpayer money.
Susan Parker is a local attorney with a Bachelor of Arts in business management from Texas A&M and a law degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. She trumpets her academic and legal credentials when she talks about her qualifications for the office.
Joanna Flores Staton has 25 years’ experience working in the court coordinator’s office for the district courts. She said she’s been working with the attorneys, judges and the public, and wants to take her service to the county to the next level.
Shelley Coston is campaigning to retain her position as Bell County clerk. Coston, 47, from Little River-Academy, has resided in Bell County for 38 years and has been the county clerk since 2008. Before her election, she served as a legal assistant to Jim Hewitt.
Velva Johnson, 52, of Belton, has lived in Bell County for 52 years and works as a legal assistant to Dennis Holle. She also sees e-filing as the biggest challenge facing the county clerk’s office. She said she considers her people skills to be her biggest asset.
County Judge: Third-term seeking incumbent Wayne Boultinghouse, 70, will face challenger and Lometa schoolteacher Brandy Eckerman, 37.
County Clerk: Sharon Fortner, 51, is challenging longtime county clerk incumbent Connie Hartmann, 57, who has held the position for 30 years.
Precinct 4 Commissioner: Jack Cox, 73, is defending his position, where he has served 11 years. Challenger Mark Rainwater, 45, owns Rainwater Custom Steel Inc.
Precinct 2 Commissioner: Alex Wittenburg is not seeking a second term, drawing three candidates for the open seat.
Jim Lindeman, 51, recently retired after serving 28 years as the Texas Parks & Wildlife state game warden for Lampasas County.
Milton Kellner, 65, is founder and owner of Kellner Equipment, a machinery business in Lampasas and served as the director of the appraisal district board.
Glen Gibson, 55, owns Glen Gibson Farms, a farming and ranching business. He also operates a small farming equipment and supply store.
Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace: Incumbent Greg Chapman is being challenged by Sharon Watson in the Republican Party Primary. Chapman was appointed to the office in 2013 when Shelia Hood stepped down in April. Watson, 60, is the deputy treasurer for Lampasas County, where she has worked for two years.
Commissioner, Precinct 2
Seven-year incumbent Daren Moore, 44, is a Coryell County native, funeral director at Scott’s Funeral Home in Gatesville and co-owner and operator of Scott’s Funeral Home in Copperas Cove. Moore was a Gatesville city councilman from 1998-2002 and Gatesville mayor from 2002 to 2005.
He is challenged by Ed Thompson, 73, a retired teacher and coach from Copperas Cove. Thompson grew up in West Texas and has lived in the county since 1996. He served six years as chairman of the county Republican Party.
State House District 59
First-term incumbent Dr. J.D. Sheffield, 53, of Gatesville, has two opponents in the Republican primary.
Sheffield is a family physician and chief of staff of Coryell Memorial Hospital. He has lived in the district for 21 years.
Danny Pelton, 55, of rural Erath County, is immediate past president of the Erath County Republican Party and serves on the State Republican Executive Committee for Senate District 30.
Howard Ray, 33, of Copperas Cove, is an Army veteran and self-employed firearms instructor. He has been a resident of Cove since September and a resident of the district since June.
State House District 55: GOP
Rep. Ralph Sheffield, 59, of Temple, is a 40-year small-business owner. He currently owns Las Casas in Temple. Sheffield first won election in 2008. His opponent, Molly White, of Belton, is the founder and director of Women for Life International, an anti-abortion networking organization.
U.S. House District 25: Democrats
Democrat Marco Montoya, of Leander, is an Army veteran and self-employed health professional. A native of Mexico who as a boy migrated to the United States with his family, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen at the age of 16.
Stuart Gourd, of Austin, is an attorney who worked as an unemployment hearing officer for the Texas Workforce Commission.