District 59 Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, a three-term legislator in Austin and Cove’s elected representative in the Texas House, is set to face a challenger in the March 6 Republican primary for the state seat.
Sheffield is being challenged by Republican Chris Evans, of Dublin.
Evans, who announced his candidacy in May, is a husband and father of four who operates Stephenville Custom Cabinets and owns a grave excavation company, according to his website. He has lived most of his life in Erath County. The website describes him as a “committed conservative who is sick and tired of being represented by one of the most liberal Republicans in Texas.”
Because no Democrat filed for the seat, the winner of the GOP primary will have an undisputed path to the job.
Sheffield, a doctor, was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2012. In 2016, Sheffield, 57, defeated Brent Graves in the GOP primary to win his second re-election bid for the state seat with 61.6 percent of the vote.
District 59 encompasses eight Central Texas counties — Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCullough, Mills, San Saba and Somervell.
Evans’ platform, detailed on his website, includes working for Texas to define marriage as between a man and a woman and treating those who are transgender as having a mental health issue.
Evans is pro-life and believes religious liberty should include people being able to pray and worship when, where and how they choose.
Seeing illegal immigrants as “uninvited” in the U.S., Evans wants to keep criminals out and make sure those who enter the country are willing to assimilate into the culture.
Evans believes his definition of conservatism is different from Sheffield’s. “The campaign’s going well. Our main job is to simply show the contrast between me and Dr. Sheffield.”
Sheffield is running on the same issues as he did in past elections. “Our platform has always been the same: health care with an emphasis for small towns and pro-public education.”
Another plank in Sheffield’s platform is supporting Texas agriculture.
“The upcoming session in 2019 will be critical for health care and public education,” Sheffield said. Because health care costs continue to rise, and rural communities continue to have difficulty attracting health care personnel, he feels strongly about making sure people get the care they need.
“I’m the one with the inside voice on those medical issues,” Sheffield said. “I want to be the voice of the district in Austin on that subject.”
Sheffield has been a family-practice doctor in Gatesville for 24 years. In the Texas House, he serves on the appropriations committee and is vice chairman of the public health committee.
As for public education, Sheffield is anti-voucher. He believes by adequately funding public schools, and allowing teachers to teach rather than be bogged down by testing and paperwork requirements, public education would improve dramatically.
“For us in rural school districts, our public schools are a vital center of our social life,” Sheffield said. “They may also be one of our biggest employers.”
The voucher system causes entire public school systems to suffer, he added.
While Evans has recently received a bit of publicity for past incidents involving a 2001 conviction for possession of pipe bombs, Sheffield does not permit mud-slinging in his campaigns. “We’ll let the legal findings speak for themselves on that issue.”
Evans’ name will not come up during meet-and-greets or other events held as part of Sheffield’s campaign. “What we run on, what we stand for is more important,” he said.