Early voting turnout indicative of election importance
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 by Matthew Girard
If there was any question of the importance of this year's November elections, one just needs to look at the early voting turnout so far.
On the first day of early voting on Monday, nearly 7,000 Bell County residents casted their votes on the national, state and county levels.
In Belton alone, nearly 1,000 voters came out to cast their votes for this year's candidates.
With early voting running through the next two weeks, Oct. 23-Nov. 2, voters will have their say on what direction the government goes into the future.
Along with who will reside in the Whitehouse between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, several key positions on the local level will also be up for grabs.
In the race for the U.S. Representative, District 31 race, incumbent John Carter will face off against Democrat Stephen Wyman and Libertarian Ethan Garofolo.
Another key position will be for the position of Bell County Sheriff after current Sheriff Dan Smith announced his resignation earlier this year. Republican Eddy Lange, who beat Bob Patterson in the July run-off election, will face Democrat Frank Hernandez Sr.
Two Bell County Commissioners seats will also be up for grabs. Republican Richard Cortese will face Democrat Irene Andrews for the precinct 1 seat, while Republican Bill Schumann will square off against Democrat Billy Ray Crow.
The Journal recently sat down with two of those candidates to talk about the different issues facing voters heading into the general election on Nov. 6.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Bell County will have a new sheriff with the retirement of Dan Smith.
First-time candidate Hernandez, who is facing Lange, said he is hoping voters focus on his previous experience with the Sheriff's Office.
"I'm focusing on my background and experience with the sheriff's office. I'm the more experienced candidate as far as law enforcement goes," Hernandez said. "I'm coming in as the underdog, but what a sweet victory it would be if the underdog would win."
Hernandez also said he would like to see the Bell County Sheriffs to be more visible in the county.
"I want the public to see more of the sheriff's office out there on patrols in different ways," Hernandez said. "We also want to increase the education to the public about crimes, thefts, narcotics to help our department so we can help them better."
Election veteran and Bell County Commissioner Cortese said he is hoping voters recognize the work the County Commission has done in the past four years as he runs for his sixth term in office.
"In the last four years, we've pretty much finished up the major construction that we needed to do to meet the growth needs of the county," Cortese said. "We put the court systems in, we built the jail and infrastructure and now we are in the processes of managing some of those things, so we can keep the jail population from growing out of control."
Cortese said he is proud of the relationship he and the other commissioners have built with all the elected county officials.
"We have a working relationship with all the elected officials that is second to none," Cortese said. "We have innovative and imaginative programs that are going on and our 9-1-1 center is one of a kind. Financially we are in great shape. It's a fantastic operation that we've put together and I'm really proud of it."
Early voting continues through this week with polls opening at 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2. Early voting in Belton can be done at the Bell County Courthouse Annex (550 E. Second Ave.).
On Nov. 6, the polls will open at 7 a.m. and run until 7 p.m. and Belton residents have four locations to cast their votes.
The 101 precinct will vote at the Belton Nazarene Church (1701 Sparta Road), the 102 precinct will vote at the Bell County North Annex (1605 N. Main St.) and precincts 103 and 113 will vote at the Belton Senior Center (842 S. Mitchell). Precinct 104, which encompasses Morgan's Point Resort will vote at 60 Morgan's Point Resort Blvd.
For more information about the Nov. 6 elections, visit www.bellcountytx.com.