By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

At 7 p.m. today, early voting numbers will be released on a monitor at the Bell County Expo Center.

For the intense competition for the House District 55 seat, the next state representative could be known when that number pops up.

Both Democrat candidate Sam Murphey and Republican candidate Ralph Sheffield will be at the Expo Center to see the numbers come in before they disband to their respective gatherings. Sheffield will be holding his party at his Temple restaurant, Las Casas, while Murphey will be in a reserved dining area at a restaurant in Belton for the night.

Early voting represents at least half of the district's turnout, and was nearly two-thirds of the total in 2004.

The campaign staffers for Murphey and Sheffield said it's frustrating, which is why so much money and resources go into analyzing numbers and conducting polls. The top three candidates combined campaign contributions totaled about $1.5 million, about half of which has been used in recent weeks for television commercials.

Both candidates hit the phones Monday along with their staff and called voters, making every effort to do what they could in the hours remaining. The candidates will be floating from pole to pole throughout the day today as they meet with voters – one of them will be the future state representative.

Murphey, the Democratic nominee, touts his experience of 16 years working alongside Congressman Chet Edwards, nearly all as district director, back before the state redrew the district borders. Murphey sees himself as succeeding on that which Edwards did – the concept of bipartisan cooperation. It's an-all Republican county, so Murphey understands he's fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. He's challenged Sheffield for taking campaign money from groups without acknowledging their cause.

Sheffield, meanwhile, had a battle just to get here, beating out three other Republican candidates in the primary. Sheffield won it by running a grassroots campaign, he has said repeatedly, involving constant neighborhood walks knocking on doors, as well as making thousands of phone calls.

Sheffield said his 30-plus years as a small businessman and restauranteur gives him a platform of success – equating a successful business with personally tending to the needs of the customers – a similar relationship he equates to that of a state representative and his people.

Contact Justin Cox at or call (254) 501-7568.

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