Election 2018: Continuing the Fight
By Joey Berlin Texas Medicine March 2018

TEXPAC throws its support behind medicine-minded candidates in key primary races

The fight never ends.

Ideally, lawmakers would do no harm to Texas medicine.

However, bad policy proposals rear their heads during every legislative session.

The Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee (TEXPAC), TMA’s bipartisan political arm, knows that ensuring that good policies prevail requires sensible, medicine-minded legislators. As the party of medicine, TEXPAC throws its support behind candidates who understand what benefits doctors and their patients.

In many cases, the real hurdles for medicine’s best candidates loom not in the 2018 general election, but in primaries like the one on March 6. Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), one of the incumbents TEXPAC has endorsed for 2018, knows that firsthand; yet again, he’s facing a challenge from within his own party.

And with the way districts are drawn in Texas, Representative Sheffield says, “if there’s going to be a contested race, it’s in the primary.”

The key races

TEXPAC goes through an elaborate process of evaluating both incumbents and challengers, says TEXPAC Board Chair Robert Rogers, MD. He notes TEXPAC can be successful in influencing the legislature to carry out TMA policy only “if we have people in the legislature who are willing to listen to our ideas and agree that the policies that are supported by the TMA are going to enhance the health of the citizens of the state.”

“Sometimes, that requires that we look at the entire package and say, ‘There may be one candidate or another who we think is a little more in line with us philosophically, but that person may not have a chance of being elected.’ So it’s not necessarily going to advance the cause of the TMA if we spend a lot of money and resources on people who are not ultimately going to be decision-makers,” he said.

Representative Sheffield, one of six incumbent physician-legislators TEXPAC is endorsing for 2018, is running for a fourth term in House District 59. In his 2014 and 2016 reelection campaigns, he faced primary challengers but ran unopposed in the general election. This time, his primary opponent is Chris Evans, a Dublin businessman who launched his campaign last May with a release saying he was “sick and tired of being represented by one of the most liberal Republicans in Texas, J.D. Sheffield.”

Representative Sheffield has been one of medicine’s staunchest advocates in recent sessions. During the 2017 session, he served on important committees, including the House Public Health and Appropriations panels, and once again took on the state’s growing anti-vaccination forces, authoring “Parents’ Right to Know” legislation that would have made de-identified school campus-level information on vaccination percentages available to parents.

“Our primary challenger is always from the far right,” said Representative Sheffield, who says that’s reflective of a shifting environment at the Capitol.

“I believe that’s due to what I call the feud in the Republican Party of Texas, one side being the mainstream and the other side being the far right,” he said. “That’s what I believe to be the root of all these problems.”

Dr. Sheffield and other white-coat lawmakers not only bring crucial voices to Austin, but also effect change that makes Texas a better place to be a doctor. For example, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway) — whom TEXPAC endorsed when she won her first, four-year term in 2016 — scored one of medicine’s biggest legislative victories in 2017 via Senate Bill 1148. That measure curbed discrimination against physicians based on burdensome maintenance of certification

(MOC) requirements, restricting the use of MOC as criteria for physicians to serve on insurance panels and hospital medical staffs.

Nonphysician endorsements

Many of this month’s key primary races involve incumbent nonphysician friends of medicine. Some of them will be trying to hold their seats even when the state’s top executive backs someone else in their own party. Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) earned TEXPAC’s endorsement for a fifth term representing the physician-rich District 134 in and around the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Representative Davis has been a supporter of expanding graduate medical education, a crucial element in addressing

Texas’ physician shortage both in general and in the rural parts of the state.

She’s also on TMA’s side when it comes to beating back the perennial efforts by other practitioners to expand their scope of practice into a doctor’s domain.

“Not that midlevel providers aren’t important, because they’re critical to care,” she said. “But I think it’s important that we have our doctors practicing medicine.”

In November, Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed a primary challenger for Representative Davis’ seat, backing Susanna Dokupil, who was an assistant solicitor general when Governor Abbott was the state’s attorney general. Representative Davis shrugged off that endorsement, telling Texas Medicine, “You never want the governor campaigning against you, but that’s his prerogative.”

Governor Abbott himself earned an endorsement from TEXPAC, along with other incumbents in statewide races. 

Rep. Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston), the TEXPAC-endorsed incumbent in District 23, also faces a primary challenger endorsed by Governor Abbott.

Oil and gas businessman and rancher Mayes Middleton is vying for the seat and got an endorsement from the governor in January.

Some of the other key TEXPAC-endorsed candidates running in tough legislative races include: 

  • Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd), who’s running for a second term in District 18;
  • Senate District 2 candidate Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale);
  • Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple), who won back his previously held District 55 seat in 2016;
  • Rep. Diana Arevalo (D-San Antonio);
  • Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), chair of the House Committee on Business and Industry; and
  • Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) 

To view the complete list of TEXPAC candidate endorsements for 2018, visit TEXPAC's website.


Getting involved in TEXPAC 

  • Political surveillance —TEXPAC monitors more than 200 legislative and judicial races in which the outcome could impact Texas physicians and their practice.
  • On-the-ground action — TEXPAC works to elect physician-friendly candidates at the state and federal levels, meaning the best candidate for the job regardless of political party. That work includes contributions, fundraising, staffing phone banks, block-walks, and mailing brochures and letters.
  • Lasting relationships — TEXPAC facilitates relationships with candidates and elected officials that are invaluable to TMA’s lobby efforts.
  • News you can use — TEXPAC continually educates local physician and alliance members on key issues through email and special TEXPAC-member-only seminars and events. 

TMA members can get more information on TEXPAC at www.texpac.org.

Tex Med. 2018;114(3):36–39

March 2018 Texas Medicine Contents
Texas Medicine Main Page



Last Updated On

January 09, 2019

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Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

(512) 370-1393

Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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