The Texas primary election campaigns are coming to an end, but for city and school board races, things are just starting to heat up.

After all, 2018 is an even-numbered year — which means there are county, state and federal races on top of the local elections that take place annually.

Central Texans who are feeling a little numb from all the door-to-door campaigning, yard signs, election mail-outs and advertising associated with the March 6 primary can be forgiven for feeling that way.

But from all indications, Bell County residents have gotten involved and have turned out in record numbers at the polls.

At the close of early voting Friday, nearly 13,200 county voters had cast their ballots — over 5,000 more than the early-voting total recorded in the 2014 midterms, and comparing favorably with the 17,900 early ballots cast countywide in the last presidential primary election in 2016.

There are good reasons for the solid turnout this time around.

Contested races can be found up and down the ballot, from the District 54 and District 55 state House races to the contest for Bell County Precinct 2 commissioner, with the incumbent facing a primary challenge in each of those races. The Republican primary also features a hotly contested race for 264th District Court judge, following the retirement of Judge Martha Trudo, as well as the contest for Bell County treasurer, with the retirement of longtime Treasurer Charles Jones.

On the Democratic side, two candidates are vying for the Precinct 4 county commissioner seat held by four-term incumbent John Fisher. Several candidates are also seeking the nomination for the District 31 congressional seat held by Republican John Carter. District 25 Rep. Roger Williams is unopposed for the GOP nomination, but five Democrats are vying to face him in November.

With hot-button issues such as property tax reform and education funding fueling the debate, voters are apparently engaged in the process and taking their opinions to the polls.

That same level of engagement is needed at the local level, where races for municipal office are starting to take shape.

Twelve candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking three at-large seats on the Killeen City Council. Another five candidates, including the incumbent, are running for the mayor’s post.

As part of its continuing efforts to keep the community informed and engaged, the Herald will sponsor a political forum for council and mayoral candidates Monday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

The forum, which will be divided into two segments, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m., and admission is free.

It’s important that Killeen voters attend this event, to get an early look at where candidates for city office stand on the issues that concern you most.

Candidates will be asked what their priorities will be as prospective mayors and council members, as well as how they would each address what they see as city’s the most pressing problems.

As city officials continue to deal with challenges in the areas of municipal finances, violent crime and future growth and development, it’s crucial that residents learn how the candidates would move the city forward on these and other issues of concern.

Granted, it’s a crowded field in the city council race, with many new faces among those seeking the three at-large seats on the ballot.

The best way to fairly assess these office seekers is to hear them answer issue-oriented questions and compare those answers to the ones given by the other challengers.

Monday’s forum is a perfect opportunity to do just that, as nearly all candidates have expressed their intention to participate in the event.

Each candidate will have one minute to make an opening statement. Following their remarks, Herald moderators will ask the candidates a series of issue-oriented questions. Candidates will have one minute to answer each question posed, and the order in which candidates answer will be rotated for each question.

At the end of the moderated Q&A, each candidate will have one minute to make a closing statement.

At the forum’s conclusion, audience members are encouraged to visit with Herald editors and tell us what additional questions you would like us to ask the candidates during the course of our municipal campaign coverage leading up to the May 5 election.

Of course, don’t forget Tuesday’s primary election. If you haven’t voted yet, you can still do so on Tuesday. A full list of polling sites is included in today’s Herald.

Then, get ready to get involved in the upcoming municipal and school board elections.

The Herald will provide continuing coverage throughout the campaign, with regular articles addressing issues of interest to the community and asking the candidates their views in these areas.

Early voting in the May 5 election begins April 23 — which is just seven weeks away.

That’s why getting an early jump on this election is so important. It’s also why the Herald is committed to gathering the candidates now, to give residents an early look at this important campaign.

Just as we did with our Jan. 22 forum for Texas House District 54 candidates, the Herald wants to give voters the opportunity to hear from the candidates firsthand — a necessary step in making an informed decision at the polls.

We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity and join us Monday night.

It’s an investment of your time that will pay dividends in the future of our community. | 254-501-7543

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