Texas Monthly has been covering the scoundrels, saints, hucksters, and statesmen of the Texas Legislature since our founding in 1973. And as our 2021 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 25 Best and Worst lists as well as some of our favorites from the last 48 years.
A wild year begat an even wilder legislative session. Lawmakers faced blackouts, a pandemic, and their own worst impulses. Amid the chaos, we plucked out the leaders—and the losers.
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.
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
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.
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“In short, the legislature was a lot like us, like Texas. It was amazingly diverse and boringly predictable; grand and generous and mean and small.”
We just rate them. You voted for them.
Guess which list had the most competition.
Competition was fierce and the winners in both categories are outstanding.