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The Best and the Worst Legislators 2003

It was a session like no other: different rules, new power players, a surprise trip to Oklahoma, and the small matter of a $9.9 billion budget shortfall. All of which made it tricky to separate the heroes from the zeroes. But we did.


THINK OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH TEXAS Legislature as an adolescent phenomenon. Republicans, giddy about their new driving privileges, leaped behind the wheel and careened down the road, hitting a few curbs and cats along the way. Democrats, their car keys confiscated, muttered a lot about living under a dictatorship.

In some ways, two sessions happened simultaneously. Let’s just say that the Texas House is from Mars and the Senate is from Venus. Temperatures soared so high in the west side of the Capitol that Democrats fied to Oklahoma, whereas the Senate’s equanimity was preserved by its self-imposed rules requiring bipartisanship.

Democrats were cheered by constant sniping among the all-Republican leadership—Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and the first GOP Speaker in 130 years, Tom Craddick—over the state budget. While Perry defined the session’s mission (balancing the budget, enacting tort and homeowners’ insurance reform), what he chose not to work on—namely, school-finance and tax reform—spoke volumes about his administration’s priorities (repaying contributors, enhancing party power, ducking tough decisions).

The criteria for our lists of Best and Worst legislators have remained unchanged for thirty years. The Best legislators work hard, understand the process, check their egos at the door (usually), and tell the truth. The Worst legislators don’t do any of the preceding. This session, especially, the pickings were slim, but somehow we found 10 good folks. As for the remaining 171? Well, we hope it’s just a phase.

  1. THE BEST: Teel BivinsHave Mercy
  2. THE BEST: Dianne DelisiShe Cares
  3. THE BEST: David Dewhurst-RLeader
  4. THE BEST: Robert DuncanA Friend in Deed
  5. THE BEST: Craig EilandNo Man is an...
  6. THE BEST: Irma RangelIn Memoriam
  7. THE BEST: Bill RatliffSaint Bill
  8. THE BEST: John WhitmireSteady As He Goes
  9. THE BEST: Arlene WohlgemuthChoose Ice
  10. THE BEST: Steve WolensThe Player
  11. THE WORST: Lon BurnamRoadkill
  12. THE WORST: Gabi CanalesCrass Action
  13. THE WORST: Yvonne DavisThe Grudge Report
  14. THE WORST: Governor Rick PerryThe Bobby Riggs Award
  15. THE WORST: Tom DeLayPest
  16. THE WORST: Jim DunnamA Terrible Disappointment
  17. THE WORST: Debbie RiddleThe Joseph McCarthy "Have You No Sense Of Decency?" Award
  18. THE WORST: Troy FraserDo the Wrong Thing
  19. THE WORST: Eddie LucioUnfaithfully Yours
  20. THE WORST: Joe NixonLaw and Disorder
  21. THE WORST: Robert TaltonPulpit Bully
  22. THE WORST: Beverly WoolleyThe Avenger
  23. The Best...

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