87th LegislatureThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Analyzing the 2021 Texas Legislature’s Conservative to Liberal Rankings

This week — Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released its legislative ranking for the 87th Regular Session.
June 18, 2021

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For the sixth time since 2011, Mark P. Jones, the political science fellow at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, released his voting record analysis for the Texas legislature’s 2021 session.

The study is conducted based on 1,235 “non-lopsided” votes cast in the House and 934 in the Senate during the legislative session — unanimous or near-unanimous votes are not included.

Members are then ranked from most conservative to most liberal. While some Republicans trended more liberal and some Democrats leaned more conservative, none overlapped.

Below, the full rankings for each chamber are listed with the lowest number denoting a more conservative assessment and the higher number denoting more liberal positioning. The third column indicates the legislator’s ranking change from 2019 — a positive number shows the member rose in the rankings while a negative number shows they dropped.

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Texas House

The 2021 Texas House rankings highlighted some new faces on the high and low ends and some significant shifts from last session. While the House makeup didn’t change at all — with 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats returning to the chamber — both parties featured marked shifts amongst their members.

According to the analysis, the most liberal Republican, Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), was still significantly more right-leaning than the most conservative Democrat, Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City).

Larson has publicly feuded with statewide GOP leadership, even suggesting the need for a third party, and was the main Republican proponent of expanding Medicaid in the state. Guillen, meanwhile, voted for both the Heartbeat bill and constitutional carry — and joint-authored the latter.

The top five most conservative House members were, in order, Reps. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), and Cody Vasut (R-Angleton). Cain held the most conservative ranking in 2019 while Schaefer jumped five spots to number one.

By contrast, the five most liberal House members were Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson), Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas), Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), and Toni Rose (D-Dallas). Like Cain, Hinojosa fell from her top spot since last session, but down to the fourth most liberal position. Beckley, meanwhile, climbed 10 spots to the top position.

The five most liberal House GOP members were Larson, Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), and Kyle Kacal (R-College Station).

And the five most conservative House Democrats were Guillen, Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), Tracy King (D-Uvalde), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), and Abel Hererro (D-Robstown).

The biggest movers were Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) who climbed 35 spots toward the center and Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) who moved 28 spots toward the center.

2021 RankRepresentative+/- Rank
1Matt Schaefer (R)+5
2Briscoe Cain (R)-1
3Bryan Slaton (R)N/A
4Steve Toth (R)+9
5Cody Vasut (R)N/A
6Tony Tinderholt (R)-4
7Terry Wilson (R)+3
8Cole Hefner (R)-1
9Mayes Middleton (R)-6
10Jared Patterson (R)-2
11Jeff Cason (R)N/A
12Shelby Slawson (R)N/A
13Valoree Swanson (R)-4
14Kyle Biedermann (R)-2
15Matt Shaheen (R)-1
16Matt Krause (R)-3
17Justin Holland (R)+1
18Ben Leman (R)+5
19Andrew Murr (R)+2
20Will Metcalf (R)+6
21Cody Harris (R)-4
22Jeff Leach (R)+12
23Candy Noble (R)-7
24David Cook (R)N/A
25Tom Oliverson (R)-3
26Scott Sanford (R)+6
27Brooks Landgraf (R)+2
28Gary Gates (R)N/A
29Reggie Smith (R)+2
30Dennis Paul (R)+7
31Cecil Bell, Jr. (R)+7
32Jay Dean (R)-13
33John Cyrier (R)-6
34David Spiller (R)N/A
35Greg Bonnen (R)-11
36Lacey Hull (R)N/A
37James White (R)-4
38Craig Goldman (R)-13
39Mike Schofield (R)N/A
40Phil King (R)-10
41DeWayne Burns (R)-6
42Stephanie Klick (R)+9
43Giovanni Capriglione (R)-3
44Tan Parker (R)-12
45Lynn Stucky (R)0
46Keith Bell (R)-18
47Tom Craddick (R)-5
48John Smithee (R)+2
49Jake Ellzey (R)N/A
50Brad Buckley (R)-3
51Sam Harless (R)-7
52Gary VanDeaver (R)+11
53James Frank (R)+14
54Glenn Rogers (R)N/A
55Trent Ashby (R)+4
56Charles "Doc" Anderson (R)-2
57Walter "Four" Price (R)0
58Ed Thompson (R)-12
59Hugh Shine (R)-3
60Dustin Burrows (R)-2
61Stan Lambert (R)+5
62Jacey Jetton (R)N/A
63John Frullo (R)+2
64John Kuempel (R)+3
65Travis Clardy (R)-24
66Phil Stephenson (R)-5
67Geanie Morrison (R)+4
68Ernest Bailes (R)+9
69Drew Darby (R)-7
70Chris Paddie (R)-6
71Steve Allison (R)-28
72Angie Chen Button (R)-4
73John Raney (R)-4
74Ken King (R)+1
75Todd Hunter (R)-22
76Jim Murphy (R)-6
77J.M. Lozano (R)+2
78Kyle Kacal (R)-4
79Charlie Geren (R)-1
80Morgan Meyer (R)-4
81Dan Huberty (R)-1
82Lyle Larson (R)-9
83Ryan Guillen (D)0
84Richard Peña Raymond (D)0
85Tracy King (D)0
86Terry Canales (D)0
87Abel Herrero (D)+3
88Eddie Morales (D)N/A
89Leo Pacheco (D)0
90Harold Dutton (D)+4
91Sergio Muñoz (D)0
92Bobby Guerra (D)-5
93Philip Cortez (D)0
94Armando Martinez (D)+8
95Alex Dominguez (D)+12
96Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D)+5
97Eddie Lucio, III (D)+2
98Joe Deshotel (D)-6
99Oscar Longoria (D)-11
100Mary Ann Perez (D)+6
101Garnet Coleman (D)-3
102Joe Moody (D)+2
103Victoria Neave (D)+35
104Liz Campos (D)N/A
105Senfronia Thompson (D)+6
106Julie Johnson (D)+18
107Ina Minjarez (D)+2
108Claudia Ordaz Perez (D)N/A
109Hubert Vo (D)-9
110Shawn Thierry (D)-2
111Art Fierro (D)-6
112Ramon Romero (D)+9
113Alma Allen (D)-10
114Ana Hernandez (D)+2
115Jarvis Johnson (D)-20
116Trey Martinez Fischer (D)-6
117Mary González (D)+17
118John Turner (D)+5
119Ray Lopez (D)-4
120Armando Walle (D)-7
121Yvonne Davis (D)-3
122James Talarico (D)+3
123Diego Bernal (D)+17
124Terry Meza (D)+4
125John Rosenthal (D)+20
126Penny Morales Shaw (D)N/A
127Donna Howard (D)+14
128Rhetta Bowers (D)-9
129Lina Ortega (D)+13
130Carl Sherman (D)+3
131Christina Morales (D)-1
132Ann Johnson (D)N/A
133Sheryl Cole (D)-21
134Eddie Rodriguez (D)-14
135Ron Reynolds (D)+1
136Gene Wu (D)-4
137John Bucy (D)-8
138Chris Turner (D)-7
139Celia Israel (D)-2
140Erin Zwiener (D)+4
141Nicole Collier (D)+15
142Vikki Goodwin (D)+1
143Rafael Anchía (D)-8
144Jessica González (D)+3
145Toni Rose (D)+1
146Gina Hinajosa (D)+3
147Jasmine Crockett (D)N/A
148Ana-Maria Ramos (D)0
149Michelle Beckley (D)+10

Texas Senate

Touting itself as the more conservative body, the 31-member Texas Senate this session featured a wider deviation from its mean on the conservative-liberal score. That means, based on this analysis, the GOP caucus stretched more conservative, and the Democratic caucus stretched more liberal than their respective counterparts in the lower chamber.

Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) took the most conservative position, moving up one from 2019, while freshman Sarah Eckhardt claims the most liberal. The most conservative Democrat is Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) — the lone Senate Democrat to vote for the Heartbeat bill. And his counterpart across parties is Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) who for the third consecutive session holds the most liberal Republican position.

With a smaller body, there isn’t as much room to move than in the House. But the Senate’s biggest movers were Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) who each shifted nine spots — Nichols in the more conservative direction and Bettencourt in the more liberal.

Winner of the one seat that flipped during the 2020 election, Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) staked out a middling position within the caucus but was still significantly more liberal than his GOP predecessor Pete Flores.

2021 RankRepresentative+/- Rank
1Bryan Hughes (R)+1
2Drew Springer (R)N/A
3Brandon Creighton (R)+1
4Bob Hall (R)-3
5Brian Birdwell (R)+6
6Charles Schwertner (R)+5
7Robert Nichols (R)+9
8Dawn Buckingham (R)+7
9Angela Paxton (R)-1
10Kelly Hancock (R)-4
11Charles Perry (R)+3
12Paul Bettencourt (R)-9
13Lois Kolkhorst (R)-4
14Jane Nelson (R)-2
15Donna Campbell (R)-8
16Joan Huffman (R)0
17Larry Taylor (R)-2
18Kel Seliger (R)+1
19Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D)+2
20Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D)0
21Beverly Powell (D)+3
22Judith Zaffrini (D)+1
23Royce West (D)-1
24César Blanco (D)N/A
25José Menéndez (D)+6
26Roland Gutierrez (D)N/A
27Nathan Johnson (D)+2
28Carol Alvarado (D)-2
29John Whitmire (D)-2
30Borris Miles (D)-5
31Sarah Eckhardt (D)N/A


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.