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Editor’s note: The methodology used to rank Texas legislators can be found at the bottom of this analysis.
The Texas Legislature’s 2023 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 85 members of the Republican House delegation reflect a wide range of ideological positions. The conservative end of the Texas House GOP Caucus is anchored by Jared Patterson of Frisco, Briscoe Cain of Deer Park, Cody Vasut of Angleton, Steve Toth of The Woodlands, Shelby Slawson of Stephenville and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington.
The other end of the Texas House GOP Caucus is anchored by J.M. Lozano of Kingsville, Morgan Meyer of University Park, Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, John Raney of College Station and Janie Lopez of San Benito. Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont by custom does not ordinarily vote and is not included in the analysis here, nor is Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who was expelled from the House in early May.
Within the Republican delegation, three distinct blocs of representatives appear in the data.
At the most conservative end of the House GOP ideological spectrum is a set of 15 representatives ranging from Patterson to Terri Leo-Wilson of Galveston. As a group, these 15 representatives are significantly more conservative than more than three-fourths of their fellow Republican legislators. Patterson is significantly more conservative than all 83 of his fellow Republicans (100%) while Leo-Wilson is significantly more conservative than 63 of her 83 GOP colleagues (76%).
At the least conservative end of the House GOP ideological spectrum is a set of 18 representatives ranging from Lozano to Stan Kitzman of Pattison. As a group, these 18 representatives are significantly less conservative than more than three-fourths of their fellow Republican legislators. Lozano is significantly less conservative than 82 of his 83 fellow Republicans (99%) while Kitzman is significantly less conservative than 63 of 83 (76%).
The majority of House Republicans (51 of 84, or 61%) occupy a middle ground between these two ideological poles. Drew Darby of San Angelo and Ben Bumgarner of Flower Mound are at the absolute center of the Texas House Republican Caucus, with one-half of the GOP representatives more conservative, and one-half less conservative, than these two Republican lawmakers.
The 64 Democratic House members also reflect a diverse array of ideologies, albeit slightly less polarized internally than the Republicans. The Democratic delegation is anchored at its liberal end by Ana-Maria Ramos of Richardson, Christina Morales of Houston, Gene Wu of Houston, Vikki Goodwin of Austin, Jessica González of Dallas and Gina Hinojosa of Austin. The Democratic delegation is anchored at its least liberal end by Richard Peña Raymond of Laredo, Terry Canales of Edinburg, Tracy King of Batesville, Oscar Longoria of Mission, Bobby Guerra of Mission and Sergio Muñoz Jr. of Palmview.
As was the case with their Republican colleagues, three distinct blocs of Democratic legislators also appear in the data.
At the most liberal end of the Democratic ideological spectrum, nine representatives stand out, with Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more liberal than those of more than one-half of their Democratic colleagues. They range from Ramos, who is significantly more liberal than 62 of her 63 (98%) fellow Democrats, to Ron Reynolds of Missouri City, who is significantly more liberal than 32 out of 63 (51%) fellow Democrats. Lib-Con Scores measure how liberal or conservative lawmakers are.
At the other end of the Democratic ideological spectrum are 19 Democrats whose Lib-Con Scores are significantly less liberal than that of more than one-half of their fellow Democrats. They range from Peña Raymond, who is significantly less liberal than 61 of his 63 (97%) Democratic colleagues, to Mary Ann Perez of Houston, who is significantly less liberal than 32 of her 63 (51%) fellow Democrats.
The majority of House Democrats (36 of 64, or 56%) occupy the middle ground. The median House Democrats in 2023, who represent the absolute center of the 64-member Democratic House caucus, are Sheryl Cole of Austin and Rhetta Bowers of Rowlett.
Centrist South Texas
South Texas is represented in the Texas House by 14 legislators. Ten of these 14 South Texas representatives are Democrats and four are Republicans.
The 10 South Texas Democrats are all located in the least liberal quintile of the House Democratic delegation (ranging from Peña Raymond to Abel Herrero of Robstown). South Texas House Democrats have among their ranks the six least liberal House Democrats: Peña Raymond, Canales, King, Longoria, Guerra and Muñoz Jr.
The four South Texas Republicans are all located in the least conservative quintile of the House Republican delegation (ranging from Lozano to Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City). South Texas House Republicans have among their ranks three of the six least conservative House Republicans: Lozano, Hunter and Lopez.
Overall, of the dozen most centrist representatives (six Democrats and six Republicans) in the Texas House, nine hail from South Texas, a region that only has 14 representatives in the Texas House all together. Or put another way, a region that accounts for 9% of the members of the Texas House provides 75% of its most centrist members.
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 2,769 non-lopsided roll-call votes taken during the 2023 regular session.
As with previous rankings conducted in 2021 (post special session), 2021, 2019, 2017 (post special session), 2017, 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 2023 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.
Disclosure: 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.
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