Near the end of the just-completed legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the session had been the most conservative ever. He was judging the session by the bills passed, and by his preference for the more conservative ones. But how do individual lawmakers fall on a liberal-to-conservative spectrum, and what does a comparison of their voting records tell us about the lawmakers’ positions in the Statehouse?
Mark Jones is a political science professor at Rice University. He put together a ranking of how House members voted, on a spectrum from left to right, for The Texas Tribune. Jones told Texas Standard the method he used to rank lawmakers is a widely accepted one that tracks votes taken on issues about which there was conflict between liberal and conservative positions, and where the outcome wasn’t lopsided.
Jones says that in the 150-member House, 16 Republican members are significantly more conservative than the rest of the GOP caucus. They include Tyler Rep. Matt Schaeffer and Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park. A smaller group of seven Republicans is at the moderate end of the GOP spectrum. They include Rep. Lyle Larson from San Antonio and Lake Worth Rep. Charlie Geren. Jones says most other Republicans are in the middle of the spectrum, but all GOP members are more conservative than all Democratic members, he says.
“Now that Sarah Davis is no longer in the Texas House, we no longer have somebody who crosses over into both territories,” Jones said.
But Democrats in the House are not as ideologically diverse as Republicans, Jones says, though there are differences. The most liberal lawmakers include Rep. Michelle Beckley of Carrollton and Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos from Richardson. Most members at the liberal end of the spectrum are women, while the majority of conservative Democrats are men. They include Rep. Richard Peña Raymond from Laredo and Rep. Terry Canales from Edinburg. Like Raymond and Canales, many of the more conservative Democrats represent South Texas.
“The South Texas Democrats are notably more conservative than Democrats elsewhere in the state, on average,” Jones said.
View the full lawmaker rankings at The Texas Tribune.