By Sarah Chacko

Killeen Daily Herald

The race for the District 31 congressional seat just got bipartisan, and Democrats are hoping to tip the scales of politics.

Mary Beth Harrell of Kempner threw her name into the ring Tuesday, stopping in Killeen and Round Rock to announce her candidacy.

A lot of us do think the country is headed in the wrong direction, she said. We need to turn that around.

Harrell, 48, said her interests mirror those of middle-class Americans like herself.

I am just like anybody else, she said. Too many of us have stayed too silent too long.

Concerns about why the war started, when it will end and how to avoid a similar conflict in the future were some of the issues the military wife and mother talked about.

She also expressed interest in helping create an affordable health care program, lessening the pressure of gas prices and questioning the tax breaks that major corporations are allowed.

We pay our taxes. They need to pay theirs, she said.

Harrell didnt hold a formal news conference at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center; just a come-and-go meet-and-greet.

She said it was the start of her grassroots campaign to get the word out about who she was. Working closely with the districts Democratic Party organizations, Harrell said they are dedicated to help a Democrat win.

Its a real challenge to run against a Republican, she said. Republicans try to make this a one-party state.

Incumbent Congressman John Carter, R-Round Rock, was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for comment on Harrells candidacy.

Arthur Resa, chairman of the Bell County Democratic Party, said he was excited to have a smart, well-spoken leader figure as a candidate.

We need some of those kind of skills to make change, he said. We have some issues we need to have a voice for.

Resa reiterated concerns about the war in Iraq, saying the party strongly supports soldiers, but is interested to know if the war was something with which the nation needed to be involved.

Shell be the one who holds their feet to the fire, he said.

Having the freedom to express different views is important, Resa said. But currently it seems that one group is running American politics.

Theres an unbalanced system not only in Bell County, but statewide and nationwide that is misrepresenting the country, he said. We have to bring this country, county and state back to balance or we will have some rough times in the future.

Harrells call to politics started early, she said.

If you go to my Web site, youll see my dad shaking hands with Bobby Kennedy when he was running for the Senate, she said. Its been a family tradition. And its never changed.

Harrells husband retired from the military after 23 years in the Army as a chief warrant officer 3. Her two sons are also in the military, one here at Fort Hood as a staff sergeant and the younger son is stationed in Arizona as a sergeant.

Harrell and her husband also operate the nonprofit St. Francis Animal Sanctuary and Assisi Animal Refuge.

Out of her 20 years in the Killeen community, Harrell has spent the last seven as a criminal law attorney, doing additional work as a prosecutor in Nolanville and interim prosecutor in Temple.

Contact Sarah Chacko at

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