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Inside Intelligence: The Best and Worst Legislators So Far...

For the latest installment of our nonscientific survey of political and policy insiders, we asked how the state's top leaders are doing so far this session and which lawmakers — and which freshmen lawmakers — are standing out, for better or for worse.

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No charts go with this week's Inside Intelligence survey — it's all text. We asked the experts what they think of the state's top three leaders so far this legislative session. Who do they think is a standout — positive or negative — and ought to be getting the attention of Paul Burka and the other writers and editors putting together Texas Monthly's biennial list of Best and Worst state legislators? And which of the freshmen in the House and Senate — and there are a lot of freshmen this time — are making names for themselves, for better or for worse?

It's a mixed bag. Our full set of verbatim answers is available here. Some samples follow.

We're past the halfway point of this session. What's your take on the top leaders — Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus?

• "Too early to tell."

• "Straus - A+... Dewhurst - B +... Perry - D"

• "Perry is in his own universe, Dewhurst is workmanlike at best and Straus can't get very far on anything."

• "Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is beginning to pull his weight; the others haven't shown up much."

• "Has Perry done anything that he wasn't expected to do?  Other than give up a little bit more than $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, hasn't this been the Rick Perry we were promised?  Straus also has to be a pleasant surprise to the Tea Party and radical right-wing forces that opposed him.  Straus has played their tune to a T.  The Dew...well, the Dew has been the leadership and a bit feckless."

• "They are 'toeing' the Tea Party line very well, at the expense of 'Joe and Jane' Texan. They are astute politicians, not statesmen."

• "Woo.  They have huge majorities and still haven't passed Voter ID."

• "Perry - another good session and a great launching pad for the national stage... Dewhurst - another good session and a great launching pad for a US Senate campaign... Straus - proved his leadership abilities and solidified his conservative credentials while maintaining his easy going style and allowing the House to conduct its business without a heavy hand."

• "Perry is playing politics... Dewhurst has yet to prove he will really confront the crisis but is making goods noises... Straus is still letting the Instant Tea Bunch run the Circus"

• "Fortunately, you identified the individuals by name in your questionnaire.  Otherwise, I would not have thought to include them in my take on the 'top leaders' at the halfway point this session.  See answers to this question under question #2."

"What members of the Legislature are stand-outs so far — one way or another? Who should Paul Burka be watching for his biennial Best & Worst list, and why?

• "Best will be Dan Branch and John Carona. Worst will be Stef Carter."

• "Worst - Riddle, Berman. Paxton, Schwertner... Best - Solomons, Carona, Deuell, West, Shapiro, Eltife... Furniture - Birdwell, Jackson M,"

• "Good- Madden, Hilderbran, Whitmire, Bad- Martinez-Fischer, Berman, Riddle, Patrick"

• "Too early"

• "Chairman Zerwas has been courageous and smart about both his state health care exchange bill and the Rainy Day Fund.  Rep. Villarreal has had the sharpest message.  Chairman Pitts has done a good job in very difficult circumstances."

• "Best- Pitts Zerwas and Deuell... Worst- Caraway Schwertner and Riddle"

• "Shapiro; Branch"

• "Shapiro, Wendy Davis, Royce West"

• "Jim Pitts, Steve Ogden, Tommy Williams"

• "Best---Will Hartnett; Worst: Byron Cook, Sid Miller, Scott Hochberg"

• "Steve Ogden Best Jim Pitts best"

• "Best - Ogden, Duncan, Deuell, Huffman, Nichols, Zerwas, Pitts, Villareal, Gallego... Worst - Carona, Patrick, Williams, Smithee, J. Jackson, F. Brown, Miles"

The freshman class is huge this year. Who's most promising, and who's not? 

• "There are a number of freshman that are showing themselves to be leaders, Connie Scott, George Lavender and Lanham Lyne are all in that category."

• "Good - Lyne, Larson, Kuempel, Gonzalez... Worst - Schwertner, Huberty, S Carter"

• "Way too early."

• "Larry Gonzales and Naomi Gonzales"

• "Promising- Huberty ... Not- White"

• "Reps. James White, Lance Gooden are among the most promising."

• "Lance Gooden on the house side deserves some scrutiny for freshman of the Year.  Eric Johnson is also getting some good reviews."

• "John Kuempel - he's not a nut"

• "Most - J. Rodriguez, Aliseda, Davis, Four Price, Gooden, Lozano... Not - Landtroop, Burkett, Perry, Simpson"

• "Dan Huberty - a great command of the issues.  Hard work and integrity.  This will pay huge dividends... Larry Gonzales - sooo much to offer... Jason Isaac - ''white light''.  What was he thinking? ... Freshmen against Straus."

• "Four Price is most promising. Doc Anderson is the least - wait, he is not a freshman."

• "Sen. Birdwell is a serious person, a conservative and has a compelling personal story.  He's kept his head down and could be capable of big things in the future."


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