Editor’s note: The methodology used to rank Texas legislators can be found at the bottom of this analysis.
The Texas Legislature’s 2021 regular session is over and the votes on bills have been cast, once again allowing us to rank the members of the Texas House of Representatives from the liberal to conservative ends of that body’s ideological spectrum.
The 82 members of the Republican House delegation reflect a wide range of ideological positions. The delegation stretches from Matt Schaefer of Tyler, Briscoe Cain of Deer Park, Bryan Slaton of Royse City, Steve Toth of The Woodlands, Cody Vasut of Angleton and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington at the most conservative end, to Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Dan Huberty of Houston, Morgan Meyer of Dallas, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Kyle Kacal of College Station and J.M. Lozano of Kingsville at the other. (The 83rd Republican, House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont, by custom doesn’t ordinarily vote and is not included in the analysis.)
Within the Republican delegation, three distinct blocs of representatives appear in the data.
At the most conservative end of the spectrum is a set of 16 representatives ranging from Schaefer to Matt Krause of Fort Worth. As a group, these 16 representatives are significantly more conservative than more than three-fourths of their fellow Republican legislators. At the most conservative end of this group, Schaefer is significantly more conservative than 74 of his 81 fellow Republicans (91%), compared to 62 of 81 (77%) for Krause at the other end, with Cole Hefner of Mt. Pleasant and Mayes Middleton of Wallisville in the middle, each significantly more conservative than 66 of their 81 GOP colleagues (82%)
At the least conservative end of the GOP spectrum is a set of seven representatives ranging from Larson to Jim Murphy of Houston. As a group, these seven representatives are significantly less conservative than more than three-fourths of their fellow Republican legislators, ranging from 73 of 81 (90%) for Larson to 63 of 81 (78%) for Murphy.
The majority of House Republicans (59 of 82, or 72%) occupy a middle ground between these two ideological poles. Reps. DeWayne Burns of Cleburne and Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth are at the absolute center of the House Republicans.
The 67 Democratic House members also reflect a diverse array of ideological worldviews, albeit slightly less polarized internally than the Republicans. The delegation ranges from Michelle Beckley of Carrollton, Ana-Maria Ramos of Richardson, Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, Gina Hinojosa of Austin, Toni Rose of Dallas and Jessica González of Dallas at the liberal end, to Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Richard Peña Raymond of Laredo, Tracy King of Batesville, Terry Canales of Edinburg, Abel Herrero of Robstown and Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass at the least liberal end of the Democratic continuum.
As with the Republicans, three distinct blocs of Democratic legislators also appear in the data.
At the most liberal end of the Democratic ideological spectrum, five representatives stand out, with Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more liberal than at least one half of their Democratic colleagues. They range from Beckley, who is significantly more liberal than 48 of her 66 (73%) fellow Democrats, to Rose, who is significantly more liberal than 33 of 66 (50%) Democrats.
At the other end are 12 Democrats whose Lib-Con Scores are significantly less liberal than that of at least half of their fellow Democrats. They range from Guillen, who is significantly less liberal than 63 of his 66 (96%) Democratic colleagues, to Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, who is significantly less liberal than 33 of his 66 (50%) fellow Democrats.
The majority of House Democrats (50 of 67, or 75%) occupy the middle ground. The median House Democrat in 2021, who represents the absolute center of the 67-member Democratic House caucus, is Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio.
Of note, 10 of the 12 most liberal Democrats are women, while all 12 of the least liberal are men. And, while only one of the 12 most liberal Democrats is a Latino man (Rafael Anchía of Dallas), 10 of the 12 least liberal Democrats are Latino men (all but King of Batesville and Harold Dutton Jr. of Houston).
South Texas is represented in the Texas House by 14 legislators: 12 Democrats and two Republicans. The 12 South Texas Democrats are all located in the least liberal quartile of the Texas House Democratic delegation (ranging from Guillen to Oscar Longoria of Mission), and count among their ranks the six least liberal Democrats: Guillen, Raymond, King, Canales, Herrero and Morales.
Political scientists have for decades used roll-call votes cast by members of the U.S. Congress to map their places on the Liberal-Conservative scale along which most legislative politics now takes place. This ranking of the Texas House members does the same thing, by drawing on the 1,235 non-lopsided roll-call votes taken during the 2021 regular session.
As with previous rankings conducted in 2019, 2017 (post special session), 2017 (post regular session) 2015, 2013 and 2011, this one uses a Bayesian estimation procedure belonging to the family of methodological approaches that represent the political science discipline’s gold standard for roll-call vote analysis.
State representatives are ranked from most liberal to most conservative based on their Liberal-Conservative Scores, with the 95% credible interval (CI) for this point estimate also provided. If two legislators’ CIs overlap, their positions on the ideological spectrum might be statistically equivalent, even if their Lib-Con Scores are different. In no case in 2021 did the CI of a House Republican overlap with that of a House Democrat, indicating that every Republican is significantly more conservative than every Democrat, and every Democrat is significantly more liberal than every Republican.
Mark P. Jones is the Political Science Fellow at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Correction, June 17, 2021: In an earlier version of this story, Rafael Anchia’s first name was misspelled as Rafaela.