With two weeks of early voting complete, Tuesday will be Election Day as voters in Bell County and across the state head to the polls.
Midterm races for this year’s general election will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. Races this year include those on the federal, state, county and even local level.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, with officials reminding residents to bring a valid form of photo identification.
Bell County election officials reported 54,050 early votes cast this election cycle, with thousands coming out each day for the past two weeks.
Election workers saw the most voters at the Belton Bell County Annex, 550 E. Second St., with 13,197 ballots cast over the past two weeks. The Temple Independent School District Administration Building, 401 Santa Fe Way, saw the second most voters with 10,560 ballots cast.
The Harker Heights Parks and Recreation building, 307 Miller’s Crossing, saw the third most voters with 9,328 ballots.
In Killeen, the Senior Center at Lions Park, 1700 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, recorded 7,355 votes and the Killeen Annex, 304 Priest Drive, had 5,621.
The Salado Church of Christ, 217 N. Stagecoach Road, saw the sixth most voters with 5,358 ballots cast, while the Jackson Professional Learning Center, 902 Rev. R.A. Abercrombie Drive, in Killeen had 2,631ballots cast.
In 2018, during the county’s last midterm election, officials reported 57,996 people cast their ballot during early voting.
State senate race
One of the key local races this year in the county is the State Senate District 24 race between Republican Pete Flores and Democrat Kathy Jones-Hospod.
Flores, a former state senator from Pleasanton, won the primary this year after facing off against homebuilder and veteran Raul Reyes. He was endorsed by many members of his party including the seat’s former owner, Dawn Buckingham.
Prior to the 2021 redistricting, Flores was a member of Senate District 19 which he lost to his Democratic opponent.
“As your State Senator, I will oppose the Biden Administration’s radical policies that have damaged the oil and gas industry, killed jobs, increased gas prices and drove inflation,” Flores said in a Twitter post.
A main issue for Jones-Hospod, who is an engineer and a mother, is the reformation of the state’s foster care system, which she thinks is broken.
“Our foster care system is broken and has been under a federal judge oversight for over a decade,” she said. Currently there are 200 children in foster care with nowhere to sleep other than CPS offices — this has been an on-going issue for years. Last year 100 children died in Texas foster care.”
State House District 54
Bell County’s two state house seats also are up for reelection this year, with both recently changed in the 2021 redistricting.
For Texas House District 54, incumbent Brad Buckley, R-Salado, will face off against his challenger Jonathan Hildner, a Democrat from Killeen.
In an interview with FME News Service, Buckley said he supported the state moving further away from STAAR tests in schools, replacing them with tests that have a national focus.
“I have co-authored and voted for legislation in both sessions to move away from the STAAR test,” Buckley said. “In order to fulfill the federal testing requirement, I support using the SAT, ACT and other nationally normed exams to be options for this, as well as allowing local school districts to use their own benchmark exams to measure student progress and growth.”
Similarly, Hildner said he also supported a move away from the STAAR test and a look toward more efficient and fair ways to test children’s progress.
Hildner also told FME News Service that, if elected, he would work to support abortion rights in the state. He said he knows not every pregnancy can be healthy and wants that choice to be between a woman and her doctor.
“The reality is that there are many reasons why someone might choose, with the highly trained support of their medical professionals, to terminate a pregnancy,” Hildner said. “It is my belief that these decisions are hard enough without bringing political games into them. I support the bodily autonomy of all Texans, and the pregnant woman in question would receive my sympathy and my commitment that I will fight to ensure equitable, high quality medical care for all Texans.”
State House District 55
In Texas House District 55, which was rezoned to include parts of Central Bell County, incumbent Hugh Shine, R-Temple, will face Killeen Democrat Tristian Sanders.
Shine currently serves on the House Committee on Business & Industry, which focuses on manufacturing, wages and regulation of businesses. He also serves on the House Committee on Ways & Means that focuses on property taxes and state revenue.
A recent focus for Shine has been property taxes in the state, which he has aimed to reform and lower.
“I am pleased with the passage of conservative bills during this legislative session, but know there is more to be done,” Shine said. “I am thankful for the governor signing HB 988, but this is just the beginning of creating meaningful property tax reform, and I will continue working towards further property tax initiatives when I am reelected.”
In a January interview with FME News Service, Sanders expressed interest in addressing crime and education issues across the state.
Sanders said he hopes to improve all forms of education across the state, including the humanities which have been neglected.
“When I talk about education, I mean all forms of education,” Sanders said. “Whether it’s adults or children, we all value education and can agree that it needs to be better for the sake of our posterity.
Commissioner Precinct 2
For Bell County Commissioner Precinct 2, incumbent Bobby Whitson, a Republican, will face Democratic challenger Stacey Wilson from Harker Heights.
Whitson, a former banker, told FME News Service he has and will continue to use his professional experience to help the county manage recent amounts of growth.
“Navigating growth is complex and expensive, but the (Commissioners) Court continues to identify efficiencies providing quality services to more residents, with less expense, without raising taxes,” Whitson said. “We are the only taxing entity in the County who has not raised revenue on existing properties for the past three years. I will use my private business experience to promote economic development to pay for inevitable expenses with sales taxes and quality jobs rather than homeowners’ property taxes.”
While Wilson also supports growth for the community, she said she would like to see more equal investment across the county.
“Precinct 2 represents more than special interest; it represents people where representation for all has been lacking,” Wilson said. “We should be proactive about understanding the issues of all those who live in the precinct. With the largest portion of Pct. 2 in Killeen, we must create a community where we invest in the whole community (Killeen, Harker Heights and Salado), not a portion of it.”
Commissioner Precinct 4
In Bell County Commissioner Precinct 4, Democrat Louie Minor and Republican Chris Bray will compete for the open seat being vacated by current Democratic Commissioner John Driver.
Minor, 43, is a general contractor from Killeen and previously has run for the Precinct 4 seat. He told FME News Service that public transportation, affordable housing and improvement of county services were his main three issues.
“Public transportation is key to economic growth and job creation,” Minor said. “The free-flow of citizens and commerce must constantly improve.”
Bray, 62, lives just outside Killeen in county land and is a small business owner and a veteran. He said that his top three issues for Precinct 4 included Chaparral Road improvements, water availability and local growth.
“Water quality and availability for responsible growth in Precinct 4 is my second issue, especially if droughts worsen,” Bray said. “I know of a few wells going dry during the drought this summer. That means our underground water table is dropping. That can have long-term impacts.”