As the fifth-most liberal Republican in the Texas House, it’s not exactly a surprise that incumbent State Rep. J.D. Sheffield (Gatesville) 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 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.
It’s for those reasons that Sheffield has faced a primary opponent in several of the last elections, and this time he faces off against two: businessman and rancher Cody Johnson and local attorney Shelby Slawson.
Johnson is the owner of Twisted J Live, a bar and backyard music venue, and four other businesses—employing over 100 Erath County citizens. He’s self-funded his campaign to the tune of nearly $1 million, a decision he says proves he won’t be bought off by special interests.
“I will not be bought by special interests and am running only to represent the hardworking people of House District 59, not to go find a job title down in Austin. I’m a conservative businessman and professional rodeo cowboy by trade—I put my money where my mouth is,” Johnson told the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. “Just like President Trump, I’m proud to self-fund the bulk of my campaign with my hard-earned money, and that is seen in this report.”
Slawson is a 42-year-old attorney, small business owner, and grassroots activist. She’s been endorsed by Texas Right to Life, and current Ag Commissioner Sid Miller has donated to her campaign.
On Saturday, February 15, Slawson is embarking on a whirlwind campaign tour of the district that will take her to eight events in eight counties in eight hours.
“Everywhere I go throughout House District 59, voters tell me they’re looking for authentic, bold conservative representation in the Texas House and are frustrated and disappointed with years and years of not having leadership on the issues that matter most to them,” Slawson told the Empire-Tribune. “We can do so much better. It’s time for change and time to take back this district. I look forward to meeting our hard-working Texans on the tour—come join us.”
Solidly Republican and situated between I-35 and West Texas, Texas House District 59 is composed of Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell counties.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has not issued an endorsement in the race.
The Republican primary election will take place on March 3, 2020. Early voting begins on February 18.