86th LegislatureIssuesDid Your Representative Become More Liberal or Conservative this Session? Here’s a List

The post-session study of where state house lawmakers fall on the ideological spectrum has been released by Rice University fellow Mark Jones.
June 6, 2019
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After state House Republicans lost 12 seats and the chamber experienced a change of leadership, many Texans watched the legislative session to see how members on each side of the aisle would perform with a larger number of Democrats in the legislature.

None more so than Mark P. Jones, a fellow in political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute, who compiles data that ranks Texas legislators from most “conservative” to most “liberal” based on each of the roll-call votes members take during the legislative session.

Though there isn’t one conclusive method that can determine what makes any given legislator the most conservative or the most liberal, this study has become a widely respected indicator of the political propensities of Texas’ legislators.

The Rice University study has been used as a campaign tool for members who score especially “conservative” or “liberal” rankings, and has been used by more moderate members as a way to prove their willingness and ability to facilitate bipartisanship.

Earlier this week, Jones released the 2019 rankings for the Texas House via the Texas Tribune’s “Tribtalk” publication. Here are some of the key takeaways.

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For the second session in a row, Jones ranked Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) as the most conservative member of the House. Three additional Freedom Caucus members followed closely behind, listed in order as Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), and Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury).

Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) was ranked as the most liberal member, followed by Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson), Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas), Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas), and Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston).

Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) is once again listed as the most liberal Republican, while Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) earned the title of most conservative Democrat.

In 2017, Jones’ top 12 on the right side of the aisle was exclusively composed of the 12 members who made up the Freedom Caucus at the time.

This session, three non-Freedom Caucus members, Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls), Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), and Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), broke into the top 10, ranking higher than caucus members Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), and Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano).

The two representatives who left the Freedom Caucus this session, Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) and Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), had very different results according to Jones’ analysis.

Stickland, the lone “no” vote on many big-ticket items who famously left the caucus late in early May, ranked 5th overall. Leach, who left the caucus before the start of the session and served as chairman of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, came in at 34th overall.

Leach dropped 22 spots after being ranked 12th in 2017.

After carrying the House’s omnibus property tax reform legislation, Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) abruptly dropped 37 spots from 21st to 58th. This comes after his promotion by Speaker Dennis Bonnen to chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and his selection by his fellow Republican members as Chair of the House Republican Caucus.

Both Republican members of the Dallas County delegation, Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) and Rep. Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson), dropped 16 places.

After the 2018 general election decimated the aspirations of most Dallas County Republican candidates and incumbents alike, Meyer and Button are the only two Republican House members remaining and face difficult reelection bids in 2020.

Similarly, Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) barely won his reelection bid with a mere 47 vote margin in a race where over 48,000 total ballots were cast. He dropped from 43rd to 55th most conservative.

Other Republican members who dropped substantially in Jones’ conservative rankings since 2017 were Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), and Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston).

Conversely, Rep. Travis Clardy’s (R-Nacogdoches) conservative ranking skyrocketed 51 spots, rising from 92nd to 41st. Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple), Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie), Rep. Lynn Stucky (R-Denton), Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview), and Rep. Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) also showcased significant double-digit increases in their conservative rankings.

Some of the shifts in ranking can be attributed to the Republican caucus losing 12 members, just as some of the movement among the Democrats can be attributed to their gains.

With the addition of 12 freshmen replacing Republicans and 9 freshmen replacing other former Democrat members, House Democrats saw an influx of 21 new personalities this session. And according to Jones’ study, it seems these new faces also provided an altogether more liberal voting record.

Of the 25 most moderate Democrats, only three, Rep. Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio), Rep. Art Fierro (D-San Antonio), and Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville), were freshmen.

Consequently, of the 25 most liberal members, 11 were freshmen.

Many of these new legislators appeared unafraid to push progressive policies, despite representing districts recently held by Republicans. In addition to Ramos and Rosenthal, Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin), and Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) all flipped their seats this cycle and could all be found listed among the top 10 most liberal members according to Jones’ study.

Likely a result of the addition of this new blood, many veteran Democrat members saw their liberal rankings drop this session. Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, dropped 17 spots after being ranked as the second most liberal member in 2017.

Just as some Republican members who were handed leadership roles under Speaker Bonnen this session moved closer to the middle of the body, the same could be said of certain key Democrat players.

Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) served as Speaker Pro Tempore, and has been notably influential and remained close to the Speaker throughout the entire legislative session with Bonnen even going so far as to tell the Austin American Statesman that Texas would be “very blessed if there was a Democrat majority and Joe Moody wanted to lead the House.”

Moody dropped 33 spots from Jones’ 2017 ranking.

Other notable Democrats who dropped much closer to the middle of the ideological pack this session include Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), and Rep. Hubert Vo (D-Houston).

Jones’ analysis of the 2019 Texas Senate has yet to be released.

The Texan compiled data from the 2017 and 2019 Rice University studies to compare how each member of the House shifted in their ranking.

Take a look at the list below.

The first column contains the member’s 2019 rank; #1 being the most conservative and #149 being the most liberal. Speaker Dennis Bonnen was not included in Jones’ study.

The second column contains each member’s name and party identification.

The third column contains the shift in the member’s ranking from 2017 to 2019. A “-” next to a member’s name indicates they ranked as more moderate. A “+” next to a Republican’s name means they ranked as more conservative, while a “+” next to a Democrat’s name means they ranked as more liberal. “N/A” indicates the member was not a member of the House in 2017.

For a full side-by-side comparison of the 2017 and 2019 rankings, click here.

Not sure who represents you in the Texas House? Click here to find out.

2019 RankRepresentative+/- Rank
1Briscoe Cain (R)0
2Tony Tinderholt (R)+2
3Mayes Middleton (R)N/A
4Mike Lang (R)+5
5Jonathan Stickland (R)-2
6Matt Schaefer (R)-1
7Cole Hefner (R)+9
8Jared Patterson (R)N/A
9Valoree Swanson (R)+1
10Terry Wilson (R)+8
11Bill Zedler (R)-5
12Kyle Biedermann (R)-4
13Matt Krause (R)-2
14Matt Shaheen (R)-7
15Steve Toth (R)N/A
16Candy Noble (R)N/A
17Cody Harris (R)N/A
18Justin Holland (R)+23
19Jay Dean (R)+23
20Drew Springer Jr. (R)-5
21Andrew Murr (R)+6
22Tom Oliverson (R)+36
23Ben Leman (R)N/A
24Greg Bonnen (R)-2
25Craig Goldman (R)-2
26Will Metcalf (R)+2
27John Cyrier (R)+6
28Keith Bell (R)N/A
29Brooks Landgraf (R)+3
30Phil King (R)+18
31Reggie Smith (R)N/A
32Scott Sanford (R)-13
33James White (R)+5
34Jeff Leach (R)-22
35DeWayne Burns (R)+11
36Tan Parker (R)+11
37Dennis Paul (R)-1
38Cecil Bell Jr. (R)-18
39James Frank (R)+1
40Giovanni Capriglione (R)-1
41Travis Clardy (R)+51
42Tom Craddick (R)+8
43Steve Allison (R)N/A
44Sam Harless (R)N/A
45Lynn Stucky (R)+20
46Ed Thompson (R)-1
47Brad Buckley (R)N/A
48Dan Flynn (R)+8
49Rick Miller (R)0
50John Smithee (R)+9
51Stephanie Klick (R)-22
52John Wray (R)+21
53Todd Hunter (R)+1
54Charles "Doc" Anderson (R)+1
55Dwayne Bohac (R)-12
56Hugh Shine (R)+28
57Walter "Four" Price (R)+14
58Dustin Burrows (R)-37
59Trent Ashby (R)+16
60Dade Phelan (R)+1
61Phil Stephenson (R)+3
62Drew Darby (R)+20
63Gary VanDeaver (R)+23
64Chris Paddie (R)+13
65John Frullo (R)-3
66Stan Lambert (R)+17
67John Kuempel (R)+2
68Angie Chen Button (R)-16
69John Raney (R)+18
70Jim Murphy (R)-17
71Geanie Morrison (R)+1
72John Zerwas (R)+8
73Lyle Larson (R)+5
74Kyle Kacal (R)+14
75Ken King (R)+16
76Morgan Meyer (R)-16
77Ernest Bailes (R)+4
78Charlie Geren (R)+12
79J.M. Lozano (R)-3
80Dan Huberty (R)+5
81J.D. Sheffield (R)+12
82Sarah Davis (R)+12
83Ryan Guillen (D)-13
84Richard Peña Raymond (D)-15
85Tracy King (D)-12
86Terry Canales (D)-12
87Bobby Guerra (D)-20
88Oscar Longoria (D)-13
89Leo Pacheco (D)N/A
90Abel Herrero (D)-14
91Sergio Muñoz Jr. (D)-18
92Joe Deshotel (D)-11
93Philip Cortez (D)-35
94Harold Dutton Jr. (D)-8
95Jarvis Johnson (D)-5
96Poncho Nevárez (D)-12
97Roland Gutierrez (D)-13
98Garnet Coleman (D)-19
99Eddie Lucio III (D)-7
100Hubert Vo (D)-21
101Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D)-24
102Armando Martinez (D)-18
103Alma Allen (D)-13
104Joe Moody (D)-33
105Art Fierro (D)N/A
106Mary Ann Perez (D)-13
107Alex Dominguez (D)N/A
108Shawn Thierry (D)-16
109Ina Minjarez (D)-31
110Trey Martinez Fischer (D)N/A
111Senfronia Thompson (D)+6
112Sheryl Cole (D)N/A
113Armando Walle (D)-26
114Eric Johnson (D)-20
115Ray Lopez (D)N/A
116Ana Hernandez (D)-7
117Gina Calanni (D)N/A
118Yvonne Davis (D)+3
119Rhetta Bowers (D)N/A
120Eddie Rodriguez (D)-9
121Ramon Romero Jr. (D)+3
122Jessica Farrar (D)-9
123John Turner (D)N/A
124Julie Johnson (D)N/A
125James Talarico (D)N/A
126Nicole Collier (D)-4
127Cesar Blanco (D)-19
128Terry Meza (D)N/A
129John Bucy III (D)N/A
130Christina Morales (D)N/A
131Chris Turner (D)-17
132Gene Wu (D)+5
133Carl Sherman Sr. (D)N/A
134Mary González (D)-2
135Rafael Anchia (D)+3
136Ron Reynolds (D)+3
137Celia Israel (D)+2
138Victoria Neave (D)+12
139Michelle Beckley (D)N/A
140Diego Bernal (D)-3
141Donna Howard (D)-1
142Lina Ortega (D)-7
143Vikki Goodwin (D)N/A
144Erin Zwiener (D)N/A
145Jon Rosenthal (D)N/A
146Toni Rose (D)+8
147Jessica González (D)N/A
148Ana-Maria Ramos (D)N/A
149Gina Hinojosa (D)+2

 

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.