Thirteen former state representatives have won their way back into the House after sitting out at least one term since 2000. All but two of those former representatives returned in the election cycle immediately following the one that caused them to leave. At least one former representative has returned in each election cycle since 2000, but only two have done so by defeating an incumbent in the Republican primary (Rep. Rodney Anderson in 2014 and former Rep. Wayne Christian in 2006).
This year, five former Republican representatives are challenging incumbent Republican representatives. We’ve previously analyzed three of these face-offs (Lavender vs. VanDeaver, Gooden vs. Spitzer and Ratliff vs. Rinaldi). In this post, we look at HD55, where former Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple) is challenging freshman Rep. Molly White (R-Belton).
The two are fairly even in fundraising and campaign spending to date. White has a slight advantage in cash on hand. Shine has an advantage in contributions from the district, but they are about even in number of contributors giving less than $1K.
Campaign Finance Summary
$63,969 – Cash on Hand
$43,508 – Contributions (1/22-2/20)
$99,061 – Expenditures (1/22-2/20)
$254,403 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$210,589 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)
$0 – Loan Principal
Geographic Sources of Contributions
$88,126 – Temple (35%)
$83,306 – Austin (33%)
$25,010 – Cisco (10%)
$13,465 – Belton (5%)
$9,500 – Houston (4%)
$33,560 – Rest of Texas (13%)
$425 – Outside Texas (<1%)
District Zip Codes
$106,352 – District Zip Codes (42%)
$604 – Average Contribution
128 donors in district zip codes giving $1K or less
$147,040 – Outside District (58%)
$62,000 – Empower Texans PAC
$55,000 – Jack Hilliard
$25,000 – Farris Wilks
$11,163 – Johnny Martin
$10,000 – Shelton Garyln, Texans for Education Reform
$9,006 – Constituents Focus PAC
$5,000 – Tim Dunn, Texas Home School Coalition PAC, Kathaleen Wall
Campaign Finance Summary
$44,077 – Cash on Hand
$54,983 – Contributions (1/22-2/20)
$136,172 – Expenditures (1/22-2/20)
$233,256 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$233,647 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)
$30,000 – Loan Principal
Geographic Sources of Contributions
$128,146 – Temple (55%)
$39,700 – Belton (17%)
$28,365 – Austin (12%)
$10,150 – Salado (4%)
$3,050 – Killeen (1%)
$21,346 – Rest of Texas (9%)
$2,500 – Outside Texas (1%)
District Zip Codes
$173,591 – District Zip Codes (74%)
$827 – Average Contribution
142 donors in district zip codes giving $1K or less
$59,665 – Outside District (26%)
$35,000 – Drayton McLane Jr.
$11,000 – David Leigh
$5,000 – Farmers Employee and Agent PAC, Peggy Hilliard, MAC-PAC, Texas Assoc. of Realtors TREPAC
$3,000 – Rick Kasberg, Drayton McLane III, David Patrick
$2,500 – Charles Butt, Choctaw Nation of Okla., Bill DiGaetano, Oncor Texas PAC, James Richardson, Don Ringler, Raymond Smith, Temple Area Builders Assoc. PAC
$2,250 – The Texas Lobby Group
Shine served two terms before he ran unsuccessfully for an open congressional seat (He lost to Chet Edwards, 53%-47%.) in 1990. In other words, Shine left the House the year Ann Richards became governor.
Recent electoral history is very much against Shine. Most former members who return to the House do so after missing a term or two. Returning to the House after a long absence is not a common feat.
The late Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) sat out eight terms before returning to the House in 1989, setting the modern record for most time away from the House between terms (Doyle Willis also technically sat out eight terms before being re-elected in 1968, but he was a senator for 10 of those years.). The late J.W. Buchanan (D-Dumas) also sat out eight terms before returning in 1981, as did the late W.W. Glass (D-Jacksonville) when he returned in 1953. Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) returned in 2009 after a 6-term absence. Several others have been less successful. Gary Walker failed to make a runoff in 2012 after a 6-term absence. Bob Leonard lost a 2008 primary after an 11-term absence. Billy Clemons narrowly lost a general election to Jim McReynolds in 2004 after a 4-term absence.
Shine has been out of the House for 13 terms. As far as we can tell, one has to go all the way back to 1939 to find a representative who returned after an absence longer than Shine’s. The late Samuel Isaacks was elected to a single term out of Bastrop Co. in 1902. Seventeen terms went by before he returned to the House to represent El Paso Co. He went on to serve eight terms before he resigned in 1954.
A Shine win would not be unprecedented. Neither would a former incumbent defeating a freshman representative.
When conservative, anti-abortion activist Molly White claimed victory over incumbent Rep. Ralph Sheffield (R-Temple) two years ago, she credited the support of grassroots conservatives across the district. “Our message was that we need someone in Austin who will really represent the true conservative values of this district,” she said. “I look forward to being the voice of the folks in this district.”
White defeated Sheffield, 54%-46%, winning her hometown on Belton, his hometown of Temple and the rest of the district’s precincts collectively.
Sheffield won the seat in a 2008 special election that coincided with his victory in that general election to win a full term. He succeeded Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple), who served nine terms after claiming the seat left open by Shine’s decision to run for Congress.
Sheffield finished second in the 2008 Republican primary and defeated Temple city council member Martha Tyroch, 63%-37%, in the runoff. Ironically, Empower Texans supported Sheffield (“He’s a dyed-in-the wool fiscal conservative – just the sort of candidate Texas needs,” the group’s Tony McDonald wrote in an April 2, 2008 blog post.) over “Tyroch the Taxer.” After being unopposed in 2010, Sheffield defeated Temple businessman John Alaniz, 57%-43%, in the 2012 primary. Alaniz also ran in the 2008 open-seat race, finishing fourth with 12% of the vote. Alaniz raised $17K for his primary challenge to Sheffield, who out-raised him by $200K.
After receiving a “B” and a “B+” on Empower Texans’ scorecards for his first two sessions, and receiving the group’s endorsement in 2010 (but not in 2012), Sheffield was given an “F” by the group in 2013. The group, and others with like minds, endorsed White for 2014.
White defeated Sheffield by 693 votes in the 2014 primary. Sheffield went from 6,400 votes in the 2012 primary – a 1,648-vote win – to 4,302 in 2014, a decline of 33%. There were six precincts where Sheffield received at least 100 fewer votes than in 2012, but they did not shift to his opponent.
605 – Sheffield
507 – Alaniz
378 – Sheffield
509 – White
-227 – Sheffield
+2 – Opponent
372 – Sheffield
300 – Alaniz
233 – Sheffield
295 – White
-139 – Sheffield
-5 – Opponent
340 – Sheffield
252 – Alaniz
213 – Sheffield
221 – White
-127 – Sheffield
-31 – Opponent
326 – Sheffield
347 – Alaniz
219 – Sheffield
320 – White
-107 – Sheffield
-27 – Opponent
353 – Sheffield
278 – Alaniz
237 – Sheffield
256 – White
-126 – Sheffield
-22 – Opponent
577 – Sheffield
569 – Alaniz
443 – Sheffield
539 – White
-134 – Sheffield
-30 – Opponent
Sheffield lost 860 votes from these six precincts between 2012 and 2014. Compared with Alaniz, White “lost” 113 votes. Had Sheffield held onto his previous voters in these six precincts, he would have won re-election.
White was one of 19 representatives to vote for Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco) for House Speaker, and she went on to receive an “A+” on Empower Texans’ 2015 scorecard. The group has endorsed her this year and is her largest single campaign contributor ($62K). She did not pass any legislation, either as a House bill author or Senate bill sponsor. She also became a national news story when, on Facebook, she said she instructed her staff “to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.”
Media condemned her views, and panned her subsequent clarifications of those remarks, but the real question is whether her hardline views are an election issue or merely a reflection of the Republican primary voters in HD55.
A recent UT/Texas Tribune poll may shed some light on this. Although its sample is statewide, the poll’s results may have some implications in this race:
- Immigration (18%) and border security (15%) are once again the “more important” problems facing the state.
- Foreign terrorist groups (25%) and illegal immigration (17%) pose the “greatest threat” to the U.S.
- A majority of respondents strongly agree (30%) or somewhat agree (23%) that undocumented immigrants should be “deported immediately.”
- 59% disapprove of sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement officials “do not actively enforce some federal immigration laws.”
- A slim majority (51%) disapprove of the state “accepting refugees from Syria who have gone through a security clearance process” while 36% approve.
- 46% either strongly or somewhat support “banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering” the U.S.
Those percentages are for all likely primary voters … of both primaries. Among self-identified Republicans, these percentages rise dramatically:
Support Immediate Deportation
Disapprove of Sanctuary Cities
Disapprove of Accepting Syrian Refugees
Support Banning Muslim Entry Into the U.S.
In addition, 57% of self-identified Republicans name foreign terrorist groups or illegal immigration as the greatest threats to the U.S. When it comes to whether a government official should “compromise or to stand on principle,” 65% of self-identified Republicans said standing on principle was more important, and 86% of “Tea Party candidate” supporters agreed.
Turnout in 2016 is anticipated to be higher than either 2012 or 2014. More than 11K Republicans had voted early in person or by mail in Bell Co. through the first 10 days of early voting (This total would include voters in adjacent HD54.). By comparison, fewer than 7K voted early for the 2014 primary. Presumably, a lot of voters will be casting ballots for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, both of whom have advocated building a wall, increasing deportations and refusing Syrian refugees.
The question is, can White build upon her 2014 support to win a higher-turnout primary election. Alternatively, that question is, will 2016 primary voters who did not participate in the 2014 primary be sufficiently conservative, as a group, to find White’s rhetoric and “no compromise” strategy to be what they want in a legislator.
The district’s voting history, Shine’s long absence from politics and the overall state of the Republican electorate suggest White will be re-elected.