By Olga Pena

Killeen Daily Herald

Just one day following the announcement that District 55 state Rep. Dianne White Delisi will not finish out her ninth term in the Texas House of Representatives, a candidate up for the seat in November has stated his intent to run in a special election to fill the unexpired term on a two-month interim basis.

Republican nominee Ralph Sheffield of Temple plans on winning two elections.

"I will be a candidate in the special election and I expect to be just as successful in that race as I hope to be in the general election," Sheffield stated in a news release Friday. "Our success in the special election will also help Bell County and Central Texas in the long run as it will help me to gain a foothold in Austin as well as gain an advantage in seniority."

The early retirement of Delisi, an 18-year veteran of the House of Representatives, throws a kink into the race for the open District 55 seat among Sheffield, Democrat Sam Murphey and Libertarian Chris Lane.

According to the secretary of state's election code, the governor must announce a special election to cover the term between the general election and Jan. 13, when freshman representatives are sworn in.

Sheffield said Delisi's resignation is sure to trigger the special election that will most likely be held on the same day and same ballot as the general election this Nov. 4.

While Sheffield made his bid known promptly, Murphey says he prefers waiting until the governor actually calls the special election.

Murphey, of Harker Heights, said he will evaluate his options once an announcement is made.

"What I'm interested in is being an independent voice for District 55 in next year's Legislature," Murphey said Friday. "I don't want to get distracted from the mission to win the general election."

Like Sheffield, Bell County Republican Party Chair Nancy Boston said she feels certain that the special election will occur Nov. 4.

The secretary of state's guidelines say the governor must set a date within 20 days.

Murphey said he'll give the governor 20 days or however long it takes before he decides whether he will run for the short term.

Sheffield said that running for the special election will not deter his mission to win the seat for the full term.

"I am running for a full two-year term as your next state representative and the focus of my campaign will not be diluted by this special election," Sheffield said. "The bottom line is, nothing has changed. I want to be your representative when votes count and legislation that affects our lives is passed in January."

Murphey said he is not as concerned about the special election but rather that District 55 deserves an independent voice.

"The general election is what's important to District 55," Murphey said.

Sheffield told the Herald that while his general election mission has not changed, he chose to make his announcement Friday in order to reach out to his supporters and let them know what's going on since special elections seem to cause confusion.

On Thursday, Murphey said he was concerned about the special election confusing the public.

"I have an inclination that it might cause a little confusion," Murphey said.

Sheffield said Friday that the only difference will be the District 55 state representative race will appear twice on November's ballot – once for the general election and later for the special. The winner of this special election will take office immediately after the election is certified.

"This special election will only determine who will be a state representative for two months, at a time when there will be no committee hearings and no laws passed," Sheffield said. "I'm not going to change the way I'm campaigning. I'm campaigning for the general election. It does open the door; the special election does give me seniority when I go to Austin. It gives me a little head start."

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Delisi said she submitted to the governor her letter of resignation, effective immediately.

Though she announced this would be her final term more than a year ago, the Temple Republican said her abrupt resignation lies in her decision to "begin a new chapter in my life. I am eager to pursue new civic, professional and personal goals."

Delisi said in her statement she has made all the appropriate arrangements to ensure the requirements of her office will be properly attended to during the remainder of her term.

Herald reporter Justin Cox contributed to this story.

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