By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The final ballot counts for Tuesday's elections were added with the early voting totals late Tuesday night; the last vote wasn't tabulated until 2:20 a.m. Wednesday. By that time, the exact figures were merely a formality as the two top vote-getters, Martha Tyroch and Ralph Sheffield, now begin a monthlong campaign to snatch up enough voters to pull ahead in the runoff election, set for April 8.
Tyroch extended her advantage with the final tabulation of early voting results. She received 5,136 votes, or 36.1 percent, to Sheffield's 4,420 votes, or 31.1 percent.
Challengers Mike Pearce of Harker Heights and John Alaniz of Temple trailed in the balloting with 2,899 votes (20.4 percent) and 1,758 votes (12.37 percent), respectively.
Clearly, both candidates will try to convince supporters of Pearce and Alaniz to join their respective sides, and feel strongly enough about that choice to vote in the runoff election.
Sheffield received the first bit of good news not long after the votes were tallied Tuesday. Mike Pearce plans to endorse the longtime Temple restaurant owner in an official announcement this morning in Temple.
"It was a very easy decision for me," Pearce said Wednesday evening on the eve of the official announcement. "Ralph encompasses the same value system I do, and I definitely think he will represent us well in Austin. Ralph is a man of character and a proven leader in the community. Las Casas is a household name, and I think that's a testament to his 30 years of hard work."
With Sheffield trailing Tyroch by 5 percent in the primary election, he is hoping to garner as many of Pearce's voters as he can. But historically, there are far fewer voters who turn out for runoff elections in comparison with primaries. In the 2006 Republican primary, the District 54 seat was hotly contested as Jimmie Don Aycock took nearly 50 percent of the 2,581 votes with three other challengers.
Soon after election night, the two candidates knocked out of the race endorsed Aycock, who then wiped the floor in the runoff election one month later, pulling in more than 80 percent of the 1,500 votes.
As the recognized front-runner in the race since the beginning of the campaigns, Tyroch said Tuesday night that her campaign strategy will not change, and that it's another step in the same electoral process.
"I think our past record speaks for itself," Tyroch said. "The voters are wanting someone who knows the issues, has experience with the issues and understands how to maneuver those issues due to my seven years on the Temple City Council."
While John Alaniz has not announced whether he will endorse one of the two remaining candidates, he did say Wednesday that it's on his mind, and he'll make a decision soon. He said he plans on sitting down with both candidates this week and determining which one of them most represent his own values.
"I want to know exactly where they stand," Alaniz said Wednesday night. "I want to do that by the end of this week and not drag it out. I'm going to look at the whole campaign. Was it honest, was it open, did they attack, and I'm going to look at all those things and decide who we want to represent this district."
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568