Candidates in race for district 59 square off in debate

Republican J.D. Sheffield (left) and Democrat Bill Norris participated in a debate Monday in Stephenville. JESSIE HORTON/E-T

Candidates in the trace for state representative, district 59 faced off in a friendly debate in the Virginia Bond Auditorium Monday night.

J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) and Bill Norris (D-Dublin) answered preselected questions on education, ObamaCare and immigration among others in front of a gathering of more than 25 interested residents.

District 59 is a large rural district, located in Central Texas that encompasses Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, Mills, San Saba and Somervell counties. Most of the attendees at the debate, hosted by Dr. Malcolm Cross and Dr. Marcie Tanner, were Erath County residents. However, a few from surrounding counties were also present.

Both candidates said they plan to be a representative of the people, with each citing examples of their ability to do so throughout the night.

Norris has worked in education for a number of years, currently teaching at Granbury High School. He has served in the United States Army as a communications-electronics officer and also worked as a software engineer and technical writer for Texas Instruments before becoming a teacher.

He has served as a former Cub Scoutmaster and spent two terms on the Dublin ISD board of trustees. Norris said he hopes to use his experience to bring about change to the Texas government's control of education if elected.

A supporter of "saving money," Norris said he favors ObamaCare because it places those who cannot afford insurance on Medicaid and keeps them out of emergency rooms, which saves taxpayer money. Norris also said he believed he was the best man for the job because he is a Democrat.

"I want you to go to the polls and vote for the man who is the best person to go to Austin and represent the people of this district," Norris said in closing statements. "I believe I'm the best man for the job because I'm a Democrat and this (holding up a copy of the Texas Republican Party Platform) is not what is best for us. This puts the rich, white man in charge and makes sure everyone else knows their place."

Norris said he would be willing to go to the mat for women, Hispanics and education, and concluded by saying no matter Democrat or Republican, those are the reasons he's the man to represent District 59.

Sheffield, who has been a small town doctor in Gatesville for 19 years, is currently the medical director at Coryell Medical Clinic and the former chief of staff at Coryell Memorial Hospital. He said he is not a career politician and for nearly two decades has devoted his life’s work to caring for the health and well-being of families in district 59.?He is a board member of the Le Vita Volunteer Fire Department and was a board member for the Boys and Girls Club. Sheffield is a life-long conservative Republican who believes that limited government, traditional family values, and honest hard work are the backbone of America, he said.

Sheffield said he believes politics should stay out of medicine and is opposed to ObamaCare.

"If we put people first, which I firmly believe we should do, we will take the politics out of medicine," he said.

Sheffield said he has witnessed the harm that special interests and political insiders have caused for his patients and the cost and quality of rural medical care. He said he wants to represent the people of district 59 to "defend our freedoms from big government, take our voice back from entrenched political elites and focus on what really matters."

In closing, Sheffield said he knows who he is going to represent if elected — "the small town people of district 59."

"Like a doctor, I want to solve problems," he concluded. "I want to go to Austin as your representative and solve the problems that effect us, the people of this district."