By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
Martha Tyroch didn't resign from her position as mayor pro tem of the Temple City Council to lose. But that's exactly what happened.
The runoff race for the GOP nominee for House District 55 became a blowout rather than the close race both sides had been predicting, as Ralph Sheffield took 63.50 percent of the vote after Tuesday's tally came in, handing the presumptive favorite a decisive knockout blow in the final round.
In the unofficial totals, with all 35 Bell County precincts reporting, Sheffield finished with 4,202 votes while Tyroch finished with 2,415.
When the early numbers were announced shortly after 7 p.m., Sheffield's campaign manager James Walpole rushed in and looked over the numbers with his mouth agape. Harker Heights' Mike Pearce, who ardently endorsed Sheffield the same night he came in third place in the March 4 primary, stood alongside the befuddled Walpole. They looked at each other and laughed like a pair of children seeing what Santa had brought them. The numbers greatly favored Sheffield, showing a 58 percent to 42 percent lead after the early voting totals were counted, a 500-vote margin.
Sheffield's political strategist, Ted Delisi, had said only a few days before that he expected Sheffield to have a stronger showing on election day, enough to make up a potential deficit after early voting. In the end, Delisi was right, as Sheffield pulled in nearly double Tyroch's total.
Sheffield addressed his supporters shortly after 9 p.m. at his restaurant, Las Casas, in front of television cameras and assembled media, holding up his fist alongside his wife, Debbie. Sheffield said he was relieved and excited and noted that his campaign can now look to November and focus on the issues.
"We're very fortunate to be here," Sheffield said amid the cheers of glowing supporters on the Las Casas patio. "My wife here, Debbie, has really been a big part of this as well. Michael Pearce, John Alaniz (other candidates in the primary who endorsed Sheffield), (Sheriff) Dan Smith, I'm so excited. I'm very thankful, and I'm looking forward to serving this district and going to Austin."
Sheffield immediately began listing his original issue-based platform, something that
both candidates had emphasized during the campaigns prior to the primary. But for the past month, the discussion from both camps centered around the starkly negative campaign tactics as each criticized the other for remaining negative.
While Sheffield's crowd was understandably joyful, the mood at Tyroch's Temple home was anything but.
Cars lined the outside of her home, which appeared to be hosting a party. But it was quiet, as supporters with solemn faces came and went throughout the evening from the home.
Tyroch appeared to be the most jovial of the bunch, walking back and forth between the counters, grabbing drinks and assuming host duties.
"There's a reason everything occurs – you can't look back, you have to look forward," Tyroch said at her kitchen table shortly after speaking to the quiet crowd of supporters in her home. "Hopefully our Republican Party can come together and make the right choice in November."
Tyroch did not say whether she plans to endorse Sheffield in the November general election, when he faces Democratic nominee Sam Murphey, but she did say she supports the Bell County Republican Party.
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568