This list of Texas House members based on partisanship appeared earlier this week on the Texas Tribune Web site. It was compiled by Rice University political science professor Mark Jones. To link to the list, click HERE. The list ranks all 150 members from the most liberal to the least liberal (that is, most conservative). The methodology can be found by using the link, if you can make sense of it. I’ll try to explain it. The list takes into account all votes (yea or nay) taken by all legislators starting with the 1973 session. Every legislator is compared with the group that he or she votes with most often. The computer does not care about the subject that was voted on. It only cares about the cohort that the member votes with. The reason that Randy Weber ranks as the most conservative member of the House is not how he voted. It’s that on the sum of all issues that were voted on, he voted on the losing side last session more than any other member. The methodology has been widely used for twenty years. It is used most often for Congress. It does seem a bit like statistical alchemy, but Professor Jones assured me, it has been peer-reviewed many times and it works. Now, let’s look at the list. Rank/ Member/District/Party/ Partisan Category 1Yvonne Davis111DemocraticVery Liberal 2Abel Herrero34DemocraticVery Liberal 3Garnet Coleman147DemocraticVery Liberal 4Jessica Farrar148DemocraticVery Liberal 5David Leibowitz117DemocraticVery Liberal 6Lon Burnam 90DemocraticVery Liberal 7Dora Olivo 27DemocraticVery Liberal 8Alma Allen 131DemocraticVery Liberal 9Eddie Rodriguez 51DemocraticVery Liberal 10Jim Dunnam 57DemocraticVery Liberal 11Ana Hernandez143DemocraticVery Liberal 12Barbara Mallory Caraway 110DemocraticLiberal 13Senfronia Thompson 141 Democratic Liberal 14Joaquin Castro125DemocraticLiberal 15Roberto Alonzo104DemocraticLiberal 16Joe Farias 118DemocraticLiberal 17Scott Hochberg137DemocraticLiberal 18Valinda Bolton47DemocraticLiberal 19Elliott Naishtat49DemocraticLiberal 20Trey Martinez Fischer116DemocraticLiberal 21Marc Veasey95DemocraticLiberal 22Armando Walle140DemocraticLiberal 23Terri Hodge100DemocraticLiberal 24Roland Gutierrez119DemocraticLiberal 25Pete Gallego74DemocraticLiberal 26Carol Alvarado145DemocraticLiberal 27Robert Miklos101DemocraticLiberal 28Solomon Ortiz33DemocraticLiberal 29Rafael Anchia103DemocraticLiberal 30Paula Pierson93DemocraticLiberal 31Mike Villarreal123DemocraticLiberal 32Veronica Gonzales 41DemocraticLiberal 33Carol Kent102 DemocraticLiberal 34Richard Raymond42DemocraticLiberal 35Armando Martinez39DemocraticLiberal 36Marisa Marquez77DemocraticLiberal 37Ellen Cohen 134DemocraticLiberal 38Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles 35DemocraticLiberal 39Hubert Vo 149DemocraticLiberal 40Kristi Thibaut133DemocraticLiberal 41Allen Vaught107DemocraticLiberal 42Harold Dutton Jr.142DemocraticLiberal 43Diana Maldonado52DemocraticLiberal 44Chris Turner96DemocraticLiberal 45Joseph Moody78DemocraticLiberal 46Norma Chávez76DemocraticLiberal 47Craig Eiland 23DemocraticLiberal 48Donna Howard48DemocraticLiberal 49Al Edwards 146DemocraticLiberal 50Aaron Peña 40DemocraticLiberal 51Eddie Lucio III38DemocraticLiberal 52Dawnna Dukes46DemocraticLiberal 53Mark Strama50DemocraticLiberal 54Chente Quintanilla 75DemocraticLiberal 55José Menéndez124DemocraticLiberal 56Ruth McClendon120DemocraticLiberal 57Rene Oliveira37DemocraticLiberal 58Ryan Guillen 31DemocraticLiberal 59Stephen Frost1DemocraticLiberal 60Ismael Flores36DemocraticLiberal 61Kirk England 106DemocraticLiberal 62Helen Giddings109DemocraticLiberal 63Tracy King 80DemocraticConservative 64Joe Heflin 85DemocraticConservative 65Sylvester Turner 139DemocraticConservative 66Tara Rios Ybarra 43DemocraticConservative 67Joe Deshotel 22DemocraticConservative 68Patrick Rose 45DemocraticConservative 69Jim McReynolds 12DemocraticConservative 70Mark Homer 3DemocraticConservative 71Chuck Hopson 11DemocraticConservative 72David Farabee 69DemocraticConservative 73Joe Pickett 79DemocraticConservative 74Allan Ritter 21DemocraticConservative 75Tommy Merritt 7RepublicanLiberal 76Mike Hamilton 19RepublicanLiberal 77Delwin Jones 83RepublicanLiberal 78Brian McCall 66RepublicanLiberal 79Todd Smith 92RepublicanLiberal 80Jim Keffer 60RepublicanLiberal 81Susan King 71RepublicanLiberal 82Edmund Kuempel 44RepublicanLiberal 83Charlie Geren 99RepublicanLiberal 84Joe Straus 121RepublicanLiberal 85Todd Hunter 32RepublicanLiberal 86Burt Solomons 65RepublicanLiberal 87Harvey Hilderbran 53RepublicanConservative 88Bryan Hughes 5RepublicanConservative 89David Swinford 87RepublicanConservative 90John Davis 129RepublicanConservative 91Joe Driver 113RepublicanConservative 92Will Hartnett 114RepublicanConservative 93Myra Crownover 64RepublicanConservative 94Dan Branch 108RepublicanConservative 95Jim Pitts 10RepublicanConservative 96Rick Hardcastle68RepublicanConservative 97John Otto 18RepublicanConservative 98Diane Patrick94RepublicanConservative 99John Smithee86RepublicanConservative 100Dwayne Bohac138RepublicanConservative 101Robert Orr 58RepublicanConservative 102Geanie Morrison 30RepublicanConservative 103Byron Cook 8RepublicanConservative 104John Zerwas 28RepublicanConservative 105Vicki Truitt 98RepublicanConservative 106Jerry Madden 67RepublicanConservative 107Phil King 61RepublicanConservative 108Frank Corte Jr.122RepublicanConservative 109Drew Darby 72RepublicanConservative 110Wayne Smith128RepublicanConservative 111Beverly Woolley136RepublicanConservative 112Gary Elkins 135RepublicanConservative 113Rob Eissler 15RepublicanConservative 114Dan Gattis 20RepublicanConservative 115Jim Jackson 115RepublicanConservative 116Larry Taylor 24RepublicanConservative 117Brandon Creighton 16RepublicanConservative 118Patricia Harless126RepublicanConservative 119Warren Chisum 88RepublicanConservative 120Mark Shelton 97RepublicanConservative 121Angie Chen Button 112RepublicanConservative 122Doug Miller 73RepublicanConservative 123Lois Kolkhorst 13RepublicanConservative 124Tryon Lewis 81RepublicanConservative 125Tom Craddick 82RepublicanConservative 126Carl Isett 84RepublicanConservative 127Dennis Bonnen 25RepublicanConservative 128Kelly Hancock 91RepublicanConservative 129Bill Callegari 132RepublicanConservative 130Charlie Howard 26RepublicanConservative 131Tim Kleinschmidt 17RepublicanConservative 132Leo Berman 6RepublicanConservative 133Tan Parker 63RepublicanConservative 134Fred Brown 14RepublicanConservative 135Betty Brown 4RepublicanConservative 136Charles Anderson56RepublicanConservative 137Jimmie Aycock54RepublicanConservative 138Larry Phillips62RepublicanConservative 139Allen Fletcher130RepublicanVery Conservative 140Ken Paxton 70RepublicanVery Conservative 141Jodie Laubenberg 89RepublicanVery Conservative 142Ken Legler 144RepublicanVery Conservative 143Ralph Sheffield 55RepublicanVery Conservative 144Joe Crabb 127RepublicanVery Conservative 145Wayne Christian 9RepublicanVery Conservative 146Dan Flynn 2RepublicanVery Conservative 147Debbie Riddle150RepublicanVery Conservative 148Linda Harper-Brown 105RepublicanVery Conservative 149Sid Miller 59RepublicanVery Conservative 150Randy Weber29RepublicanVery Conservative Things I found interesting: 1. Only 11 of the 74 Democrats in the 81st Legislature scored as “very liberal.” For all of the liberal-bashing that goes on in Texas, the Texas Democratic party has a pretty moderate base. This is why Democrats have been able to win elections in Republican districts. Only 12 Republicans were “very conservative.” If you look at the members on the extremes, the “very liberal” Democrats have more members who are highly visible (Davis, Coleman, Farrar, Dunnam) than the “very conservative” Republicans (Christian, Riddle) do. 2. Note the considerable gap between Coleman and Dunnam (“very liberal”) and the third member of the Democratic leadership triumvirate, Gallego. The latter’s voting record is somewhat more conservative because he comes from a rural district and was a prosector. 3. The median Democrat (#37 out of 74) is Ellen Cohen. The median Republican (#38 out of 76) is Gary Elkins. This seems pretty true to form to me. 4. Among the twelve Republicans who are graded as “very conservative,” four are freshmen. Among the twelve Democrats who graded as “conservative,” all are veterans. It is not surprising that brand-new members of the more ideologically motivated party would find common ground in the politically safe territory on the ideological extreme, whereas conservative Democrats did not feel pressure to move to the center. Yet, only Rios Ybarra among the freshman Democrat aligned with the conservative Democrats. 5. The dividing line of the Legislature–between the most conservative Democrat and the least conservative Republican–falls between Ritter and Merritt. This too seems pretty true to form. Ritter is the most conservative Democrat, and Merritt was the biggest maverick among Republicans. From here on, I’m going to let Professor Jones carry the ball. The following commentary is from the Baker Institute blog: The Rise of Partisan Polarization in the Texas House of Representatives Over the past 40 years, the ideological differences between the members of the Democratic and Republican delegations in the Texas House of Representatives have increased dramatically. Using data drawn from roll call votes cast by representatives … here I document the widening over the past four decades of the ideological gulf that now separates Democrats and Republicans. In 1973, the mean location of the members of the Republican delegation on the liberal-conservative ideological dimension (ranging from -1.00 [liberal extreme] and 1.00 [conservative extreme]), along which most votes in the House are cast, was 0.44; while the mean location for the Democratic delegation was 0.01. Over the following three decades, the Republican delegation became increasingly conservative, with mean values of 0.45 in 1983, 0.58 in 1993, 0.63 in 2003 and 0.67 in 2009; while the Democratic delegation became increasingly liberal, with mean values of -0.08 in 1983, -0.23 in 1993, -0.28 in 2003 and -0.34 in 2009. [Note: It is interesting that the Republicans were at their conservative zenith in 2009, a session that is generally regarded to have been bipartisan. –pb] The principal sources of this growing gap between the two parties include the transition of the status of conservative Democrats in Texas from abundant to endangered, along with the increasing conservatism of many Republicans. In 1973, conservative Democrats were plentiful, with, for instance, a full 37 percent of Democratic House members … more conservative than the most liberal Republican (who was never very “liberal”). By 1995, this number had dropped to 4 percent, and since 1999, there has been no Democrat whose location on the liberal-conservative ideological dimension has been more conservative than that of the most liberal Republican. Paralleling the decline of the conservative Democrat is the rise of the very conservative Republican. In the 1970s and 1980s, a mere 0 percent and 3 percent of Texas Republican legislators were located respectively at a “very conservative” location (greater than 0.75) on the liberal-conservative dimension. The percentage of Republicans who were very conservative rose dramatically in the 1990s (18 percent) and 2000s (23 percent), with one in four Republicans in the 2009 House having a Liberal-Conservative Score greater than 0.75. The impact of this increased level of polarization on the legislative process in the House has varied over time, resulting in a tendency toward hegemonic Republican rule during the speakership of Tom Craddick (2003-2009), when Republicans pushed through legislation over the objections of a majority of Democrats; and to the obverse during the latter portion of the speakership of Pete Laney (1993-2003) and during the current speakership of Joe Straus (2009-2011), when the more conservative Republicans tended to find themselves on the losing side of a greater proportion of votes than their Democratic and more-liberal Republican colleagues….
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