A runoff election rarely bodes well for an incumbent lawmaker, the logic being that once someone has held office, if they can’t get more than 50 percent of the vote during a primary race, they likely won’t win the ensuing runoff.

That could ultimately end up being the case for State Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R–Gatesville), who finds himself in a runoff battle against Shelby Slawson.

As the fifth-most liberal Republican in the Texas House, it’s not exactly a surprise that Sheffield is going to have a tough time keeping his West Texas House District 59 seat.

First elected in 2012 after Democrats crossed over into the GOP primary to vote for him against future Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who previously held the seat, Sheffield cemented himself as one of the most liberal members of the Texas House Republican Caucus.

He’s earned a career “F” rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, notching a dismal score of 39 during the 86th Texas Legislature. For those keeping track at home, that’s only six points better than Laredo Democrat State Rep. Richard Raymond.

Sheffield has also split with his party on the issue of life, publicly opposing ending late-term abortions 10 times. He was also the only member of the House Republican Caucus to vote against Senate Bill 11, the campus concealed carry bill.

These are issues Shelby Slawson is using to contrast her campaign as she faces a runoff with Sheffield.

Slawson is a 42-year-old attorney, small-business owner, and grassroots activist. She’s been endorsed by Texas Right to Life, and current Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has donated to her campaign.

On election night in the March primary, Slawson shocked many in the Austin political establishment by not only forcing the race into a runoff but leading Sheffield in the vote total and coming in first place in each of the district’s eight counties. Slawson garnered 45.7 percent of the vote in the three-way race, while Sheffield came in a distant second with 30 percent.

Slawson’s own campaign materials describe her as a “bold constitutional conservative, a fierce taxpayer advocate, and pistol-packin’ mama.”

In recent weeks, Slawson has also criticized Sheffield’s failure to oppose the push by Democrats to expand mail-in ballots—often rife with fraud—under the guise of the Chinese coronavirus.

When asked about the push on a recent tele-town hall, Sheffield said he thought the proposition was “a very interesting idea and one we’re going to have more discussions about in the next [legislative] session.”

Originally scheduled for May 26, the runoff election has been rescheduled to July 14. Meanwhile, campaigns have been forced to rethink their usual strategies, as in-person meetings and door-to-door block walking is largely out of the question.

For Sheffield, that could very well mean delaying the inevitable, as he faces an uphill battle in his quest to return to the legislature.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens

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