Since entering the Texas House in 2013—an effort that required the help of Planned Parenthood, teacher unions, and Democrat crossover voters to defeat Sid Miller (who has since been elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner)—Sheffield has made clear those groups knew who they were voting for.
One of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas Legislature, Sheffield has sided more often with Texas Democrats than members of his own party on issues like fiscal responsibility, protecting life, and Second Amendment rights despite representing one of the most conservative portions of Texas
Indeed, Sheffield was the only Republican legislator in the state of Texas not to receive the endorsement of the Texas State Rifle Association and NRA in 2016 after he voted against protecting Texans’ gun rights on university campuses and has a lifetime “F” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
He’s also drawn the ire of grassroots Texans all across the state for using his credibility as a medical doctor to attempt to bring Obamacare to Texas and to fight against pro-life legislation in the Texas House.
It’s on that issue that Sheffield has drawn the most outrage with pro-life Texans in House District 59 furious that they went from being represented by Miller, who authored the state’s sonogram law, to Sheffield who has openly advocated for late-term abortions on the floor of the Texas House.
Sheffield’s stances have made him a top target of Texas Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, which has endorsed his opponent in this election.
In this most recent session, Sheffield authored one of his most nefarious pieces of legislation: a “granny tax” on nursing home residents that would have concealed a rate increase on senior citizens and their families. That bill passed the House—despite a majority of Republicans voting in opposition—but it died in the Texas Senate.
For his repeated misdeeds in the 85th Texas Legislature, citizens rated him as one of the top ten worst legislators in 2017. But despite Sheffield’s horrendous record, campaigns against him have sputtered and failed to gain traction.
In 2014 Sheffield was challenged by two candidates and won without a runoff by garnering more than 60 percent of the vote.
And in the 2016 Republican Primary Sheffield faced off against Stephenville real estate broker and auctioneer Brent Graves and again received more than 60 percent of the vote, many from Democrats who crossed over to vote for him in 2012.
In this election cycle, Sheffield is being challenged by Erath County small businessman Chris Evans, a married father of four girls who works in the construction industry, operates Stephenville Custom Cabinets, and owns a grave excavation company, and is mounting a serious campaign.
Evans says voters across his district, which includes 8 counties in the heart of Texas, are significantly more conservative than their current representation.
“Our community believes in hard work, family values, and limited government, but in JD Sheffield, we’re being represented by a liberal,” said Evans. “I knock on doors and talk to voters every day who are ready for a conservative to represent them in Austin.”
The campaign Evans is spearheading has likely already knocked on more doors than all of Sheffield’s re-election opponents combined. He’s also been working to develop, engage, and turn out the groundswell of conservative voters who rallied to defeat a proposed annexation by Ranger College.
In Comanche and Erath Counties (and Brown County which is represented by State Rep. Mike Lang of Granbury), conservative activists worked together to inform and turn out voters in opposition of the proposed annexation and the property tax increase that would come with it. Evans contributed heavily to the effort, focusing his campaign in those areas towards assisting in voter engagement and cutting radio ads encouraging voters to vote against it.
And they did. Overwhelmingly.
If Evans can tap into those voters and run an aggressive operation in the rest of the district he’ll be well on his way toward defeating Sheffield. But that will be decided when polls close for the Texas Republican Primary election on March 6th.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.