Bell County votes on House Districts 54, 55

State Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) discusses open carry legislation with reporters and constituents Tuesday evening at the Bell County Exposition Center in Belton where locals gathered to await election results. Photo credit: Eric Vining

Over 150 locals gathered Tuesday evening at the Bell County Exposition Center in Belton to meet with local candidates and await elections results. At the time of publication, Texas House District 55 challenger former State Rep. Hugh Shine was leading by 2 points, just ahead of incumbent State Rep. Molly White, and District 54 candidate Scott Cosper was leading by 4.5 percent over Austin Ruiz.

Voters from across Bell County headed to polling locations Tuesday to cast their votes during the Texas primaries for local, state and federal-level offices.

Bell County’s two seats in the Texas House of Representatives, House Districts 54 and 55, were included among the county’s most contested GOP elections.

Texas House District 54, the seat held by former Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock (R-Bell), was left open after he declined to run for re-election at the conclusion of the 84th legislature. With 30 percent of precincts reporting as of 10:15 p.m., Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper held a 4.5 percent lead over local dentist Dr. Austin Ruiz.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity, and we hope that the trend continues throughout the night and we’ll be able to prevail and serve the people of district 54,” Cosper said.

Despite the close race, Ruiz was still confident his campaign could pull through and win the majority of remaining precincts, as well as look forward to the contested general election.

“We’re still just waiting to see what happens as the final numbers come in,” Ruiz said.

In Texas House District 55, incumbent State Rep. Molly White (R-Bell) has faced a tight race against former State Rep. Hugh Shine, who is seeking to return to his old House seat.

With near-record voter turnout for the 2016 Super Tuesday primaries, some of Bell County’s voting locations, especially those in House District 55, ran out of ballots for voters to cast, making the stakes even higher for candidates.

“We had a really crazy election today because many polling locations ran out of ballots…all across the district,” White said. “So, we’re going to have polls coming in the rest of the night, and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite these difficulties, White was confident her campaign would pull ahead. “It’s close, but I think we’re going to win it, but it’s going to be tight.”

“We canvassed the district and visited over 10,000 houses, talked to over 15,000 people, and those aren’t even the latest numbers,” White said. “I really think we’re going to be able to bring it home.”

Texas House District 55 challenger Hugh Shine, who as of 10:15 p.m. Tuesday evening was polling 2 points ahead of White with roughly 30 percent of precincts reporting, was not planning on backing down in his effort to regain the seat.

“We’re really proud of our whole team, and we did the best to let people know I have the experience to continue moving District 55 forward,” Shine said.