The Best and Worst Legislators, 1973-2019

We’ve been covering legislative saints and scoundrels for nearly half a century. Here’s our full collection of Best and Worst.

Texas Monthly has been covering the scoundrels, saints, hucksters, and statesmen of the Texas Legislature since our founding in 1973. And as our 2019 Best and Worst Legislators list demonstrates, the Lege continues to be the best entertainment Texas has to offer. But it’s also a serious business that deserves the gimlet eye of independent journalists. These lists aim to capture what’s wonderful and terrible, hilarious and stupefying about the 181 Texans who meet in the Capitol every odd year to do the people’s business. Here you’ll find all 24 Best and Worst lists as well as some of our favorites from the last 46 years.

The Classics

2010-2019

2011: The Best and Worst Legislators

Jan 21, 2013 By Paul Burka and Nate Blakeslee

For the Eighty-second Legislature (our twentieth at the Capitol), everything old was new again: the state faced a budget deficit; the governor harbored presidential ambitions; the members of the Best list were hard to find; and the names on the Worst list picked themselves.

2000-2010

2009: The Best and Worst Legislators

Jun 30, 2009 By Paul Burka and Patricia Hart

It was a new era at the Capitol, with a new Speaker and a new mood of peace, love, and bipartisanship in the war-torn House. But the eighty-first legislative session turned out to be a lot like the eighty that came before it—some heroes, some villains, and enough hot air to last until 2011.

2007: The Best and Worst Legislators

Jun 30, 2007 By Paul Burka and Patricia Hart

The eightieth session began with a Speaker’s race, ended with a Speaker’s race, and was consumed in between by the usual mix of nuanced issues and nasty politics. Along the way, a handful of lawmakers put the common good ahead of all else. And a handful of lawmakers didn’t.

2005: The Best and Worst Legislators

Jun 30, 2005 By Paul Burka and Patricia Hart

A few lawmakers in both parties distinguished themselves during one of the worst sessions anyone can remember. As for the rest? Well, in the words of Jon Stewart, that famous observer of Texas politics: not so much.

2003: The Best and the Worst Legislators

Jun 30, 2003 By Texas Monthly

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.

2001: The Best and the Worst Legislators

Jun 30, 2001 By Paul Burka and Patricia Hart

Rodney Ellis was excellent. Gary Elkins was— well, significantly less so. Bill Ratliff was a model of dignified leadership. Domingo Garcia was a one-man leper colony. Our biennial roundup of the Legislature's leading lights and dim bulbs.

1990-2000

1980-1990

1973-1980