BELTON — Molly White, running against state Rep. Ralph Sheffield for the District 55 seat, said she doesn’t want the “Oust Straus” effort to define her campaign.
However, the effort to replace House Speaker Joe Straus — whom Sheffield supports — has drawn attention around the state.
Groups such as Freedom Works, Empower Texas, Young Conservatives, Breitbart.com and Raging Elephants on the Internet are urging voters to elect people who won’t support Straus. There are tea party groups all around the state with that opinion as well.
When he was first elected, Sheffield, R-Temple, opposed Straus’ bid for the speakership. However, he said that once Tom Craddick withdrew his name from nomination, “there was no one left to support but Straus.”
“Over the years we’ve mended fences and been able to work together,” Sheffield said. “I’m not afraid of my support for Speaker Straus.”
He added that while Straus — elected by Democrats and a minority of Republicans — “stands by the GOP caucus” he does have to give Democratic representatives “some room.”
“The House runs on seniority and some of the Democrats have seniority,” Sheffield said.
White’s campaign is trying to run on conservative support, including sending emails with information from groups such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which endorsed White and 12 other challengers of Republican incumbents. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility is one of several groups headed by Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative activist who repeatedly attempted to remove Straus from power almost as soon as he became speaker in 2009.
Votes Sheffield cast allegedly would have “enabled the political intimidation of conservatives,” according to Ralphsheffield.org, a website run by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The site listed ratings of Sheffield of 52 by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, 68 by Young Conservatives, 57 by Texas Right to Life and 65 by the Texas Eagle Forum.
Sheffield, saying that Sullivan’s groups are “far-right extremists,” disputes the accusations.
Sullivan also runs Empower Texans, which gave Sheffield an F rating for his votes in the last session, and Accountability First.
“If I voted to take away funding from firefighters, why are they endorsing me now?” Sheffield said. He added the bill Sullivan characterized as “enabling the political intimidation of conservatives” was a bill that would have required disclosure of donors to so-called “dark money” political groups.
“They don’t want to spend any money,” Sheffield said. “They don’t want to finance public education. They don’t want to do anything that supports business.”
However, they have spent some money supporting White. In her most recent campaign finance report, White disclosed she received $5,500, or 32 percent of her fundraising total, from the Accountability First political action committee.
“Texans for Fiscal Responsibility endorsed me because I’m a true fiscal conservative,” White said. She added that she is not in the race as part of a behind-the-scenes move to take Straus out of the leadership by removing his support in the House.
“No one put me up to run,” White said. “No one paid my filing fees. I’m running because we deserve a true conservative.”
Texas House District 55 includes Temple, Belton, Holland, Troy, Morgan’s Point, Little River-Academy, Rogers and parts of Killeen. Early voting in the March 4 primary ends Friday.