By Mark P. Jones, The Texas Tribune
“Analysis: The 2023 Texas Senate, from right to left” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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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 Senate’s roll-call votes during this year’s now-ended regular legislative session allow us to once again rank the 31 senators from liberal to conservative on that body’s ideological spectrum.
The 19 Republican senators fall into four general groups in regard to their location on the ideological spectrum.
At the most conservative end are three senators: Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Mayes Middleton of Galveston and Bob Hall of Edgewood. Hughes, Middleton and Hall all have Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more conservative than those of all of the 16 other Republican senators. Within this trio, Hughes and Middleton have Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more conservative than that of Hall. Lib-Con Scores measure how liberal or conservative lawmakers are.
A second group to the right of the GOP median consists of six senators, ranging from Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and Drew Springer of Muenster to Paul Bettencourt of Houston and Phil King of Weatherford. Hancock and Springer’s respective Lib-Con Scores are each significantly more conservative than those of 11 Republican senators, and each significantly less conservative than those of three. Bettencourt’s Lib-Con Score is significantly more conservative than those of seven Republican senators and is significantly less conservative than those of three. King’s Lib-Con Score is significantly more conservative than those of six Republican senators and significantly less conservative than those of five.
A third GOP group consists of nine senators, ranging from Tan Parker of Flower Mound and Kevin Sparks of Midland to Brian Birdwell of Granbury and Pete Flores of Pleasanton. Parker and Sparks’ respective Lib-Con Scores are each significantly less conservative than those of six Republican senators, and each significantly more conservative than those of five. Flores’ Lib-Con Score is significantly less conservative than those of 13 Republican senators while Birdwell’s is significantly less conservative than those of 11.
At the least conservative end of the GOP ideological spectrum is a single senator, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville. Nichols has a Lib-Con Score that is significantly less conservative than those of 17 of his 18 Republican colleagues.
The 12 Democratic senators fall into three general groups in regard to their location on the ideological spectrum.
At the most liberal end of the Democratic ideological continuum are two senators, Sarah Eckhardt of Austin and Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio. Both have Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more liberal than those of all of the 10 other Democrats.
At the least liberal end of the Democratic ideological continuum is a single senator, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen. His Lib-Con Score is significantly less liberal than those of every one of his 11 fellow Democrats.
The largest group of Democrats is located between these two poles. That group of nine ranges from Borris Miles of Houston, José Menéndez of San Antonio and Carol Alvarado of Houston at the more liberal end to César Blanco of El Paso, Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo at the less liberal end.
Miles has a Lib-Con Score that is significantly more liberal than those of three of his fellow Senate Democrats, while Menéndez and Alvarado’s Lib-Con Scores are both significantly more liberal than those of two Democratic senators.
Blanco’s Lib-Con Score is significantly less liberal than those of five of his fellow Democrats, while LaMantia and Zaffirini’s Lib-Con Scores are significantly less liberal than those of three and two Democratic senators respectively.
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 Senate does the same, by drawing on the 2,728 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 political science’s gold standard for roll-call vote analysis.
The senators 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 senators’ 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 Republican senator overlap with that of a Democratic senator, 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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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/06/21/mark-jones-texas-senate-2023-right-left/.
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