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The Best and Worst Legislators 2009

Worst Leaders

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst
When press accounts remarked on his absence from the podium during most Senate sessions, he promptly took command of the gavel. And the machinery of government promptly began to sputter, as he carried on multiple conversations and otherwise proved too preoccupied for the task of passing bills. “Thanks a lot,” exasperated senators groused to reporters. Dewhurst was engaged this session—but not with the Legislature. His impending marriage, as well as his possible U.S. Senate race, made him as distracted and unpredictable as a third-grader in desperate need of Ritalin. While he can rightly claim success for his role in finding a windstorm insurance solution and a health care initiative, his leadership and communications weaknesses were on stark display. A prime example occurred during the final weekend, when, standing at the podium, he scolded the House for its work schedule, interrupting himself at one point to take a cell phone call from Straus. A Camp David moment it was not.

Governor Rick Perry
Nothing better sums up his performance this session than his itinerary for Thursday May 28. With deadlines bearing down on a fractious Legislature, much of the people’s work still unresolved, he left Austin to attend a fundraiser in Houston for Congressman Michael McCaul, where he presented talk show host Rush Limbaugh with an Honorary Texan Award. From his State of the State address to his secession silliness to sine die, Perry preened for the hard-core Republican base. As for the dirty work at the Capitol, he kept his hands clean. He threatened vetoes or surreptitiously dispatched allies in the House and Senate to kill bills to save him the trouble. His major accomplishment was finding ways to postpone tough decisions—transportation funding, for example—until after the 2010 election.

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