On October 9, 2023, the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), a non-partisan conservative youth organization, published its ratings for the 88th Texas Legislature.
The scorecard, which was first published in 1975, reviewed 79 votes taken by lawmakers during the 88th Regular Session and one vote taken during the First Special Session.
“We evaluate legislators based on their dedication to fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and constitutional governance,” said YCT Chairman Nate Dunning.
“Our goal is to empower the public with valuable insights, enabling them to actively engage with their representatives and advocate for policies that uphold the principles Texans hold dear.”
The Break Down
To begin, how does this scoring system work?
YCT scores each individual member of the legislature based on how they voted on a select number of legislation, 80 pieces of legislation in this case. If YCT supported a bill and the individual legislator voted with YCT on said bill, then that works in the favor of the legislator’s rating. If YCT opposes a bill and the legislator votes in favor of the bill, then it works against the legislator’s rating.
YCT gave the 88th Texas Legislature an average of 52. This means, on average, the Texas Legislature voted with YCT 52% of the time.
This is a slight improvement from the 87th Legislature, which received an average of 50, and the 86th Legislature, which received a 51.
However, according to the YCT rating system, this still constitutes a “failing” average.
YCT gave the Texas House an average of 51. This is a slight improvement from the House during the 87th and 86th Legislature, which both received a 49.
For the Senate, YCT gave it an average of 58. This is, once again, a slight improvement from the 87th Legislature. However, it is a slight decline from the 86th Legislature, which scored a 59.
The Most “Conservative” Members
The top 5 most “conservative” members of the Texas House are listed below.
- Steve Toth, a Republican from Conroe, represents House District 15. He scored a 99. He has a career average rating of 95.
- Richard Hayes, a freshman Republican from Hickory Creek, represents House District 57. He scored a 98.
- Brian Harrison, a Republican from Midlothian, represents House District 10. He scored a 97. This is Harrison’s first full legislative session, as he was sworn in in October 2021 following a special election.
- Carrie Isaac, a freshman Republican from Wimberley, represents House District 73. She scored a 96.
- Valoree Swanson, a Republican from Spring, represents House District 150. She was first elected in 2016 and has a career average of 93.
The top 5 most “conservative” members of the Texas Senate are listed below.
- Bryan Hughes, a Republican from Mineola, represents Senate District 1. He scored a 93. He was first elected to the House in 2002 and to the Senate in 2016. His career average is 85.
- Bob Hall, a Republican from Edgewood, represents Senate District 2. He scored a 92. He was first elected in 2014 and has a career average of 91.
- Mayes Middleton, a freshman Republican from Galveston, represents Senate District 11. He scored a 88. Middleton was first elected to the Texas House in 2018, where he served two terms. He has a career average of 95.
- Drew Springer Jr., a Republican from Muenster, represents Senate District 30. He scored a 82. Springer was first elected to the Texas House in 2012 and to the Senate in 2020. He has a career average of 79.
- Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, represents Senate District 18. He scored a 78. Kolkhorst was first elected to the Texas House in 2000 to the Senate in 2014. She has a career average of 75.
The Least “Conservative” Republicans
The 5 most “liberal” Republicans of the Texas House are listed below.
- Ken King, a Republican from Canadian, represents House District 88. He scored a 52. King was first elected in 2012 and has a career average of 48.
- Charlie Geren, a Republican from Fort Worth, represents House District 99. He scored a 52. Geren was first elected in 2000 and has a career average of 54.
- Drew Darby, a Republican from San Angelo, represents House District 72. He scored a 54. Darby was first elected in 2006 and has a career average of 59.
- Hugh Shine, a Republican from Temple, represents House District 55. He scored a 56. Darby was first elected in 2016 and has a career average of 56.
- Kyle Kacal, a Republican from College Station, represents House District 12. He scored a 57. Kacal was first elected in 2012 and has a career average of 50.
The 5 most “liberal” Republicans of the Texas Senate are listed below.
- Robert Nichols, a Republican from Jacksonville, represents Senate District 3. He scored a 67. Nichols was first elected in 2006 and has a career average of 66.
- Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, represents Senate District 17. She scored a 72. Huffman was first elected in 2008 and has a career rating of 69.
- Pete Flores, a Republican from Pleasanton, represents Senate District 24. He scored a 72. Flores served one term representing Senate District 19 in the Texas Senate from 2018-2021. He was defeated in his 2020 bid for reelection by Roland Gutierrez. In 2022, Flores ran again for the Texas Senate, now for Senate District 24. He has a career rating of 70.
- Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury, represents Senate District 22. He scored a 72. Birdwell was first elected in 2010 and has a career average of 82.
- Charles Perry, a Republican from Lubbock, represents Senate District 28. He scored 73. Perry was first elected to the Texas House in 2010 and to the Senate in 2014. He has a career average of 78.
The Most “Liberal” Democrats
The top 5 most “liberal” Democrats of the Texas House are listed below.
- Toni Rose, a Democrat from Dallas, represents House District 110. She scored a 10. Rose was first elected in 2012 and has a career average of 14.
- Jolanda Jones, a Democrat from Houston, represents House District 147. She scored a 10. Jones was first elected in 2022 following a special election. This is her first full legislative session.
- Mihaela Plesa, a freshman Democrat from Dallas, represents House District 70. She scored a 11.
- Erin Zwiener, a Democrat from Driftwood, represents House District 45. She scored a 13. Zwiener was first elected in 2018 and has a career average of 14.
- Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, represents House District 137. He scored a 13. Wu was first elected in 2012 and has a career average of 13.
The top 5 most “liberal” Democrats of the Texas Senate are listed below.
- Sarah Eckhardt, a Democrat from Austin, represents Senate District 14. She scored a 16. Eckhardt was first elected in 2020 and has a career average of 13.
- Nathan Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas, represents Senate District 16. He scored a 22. Johnson was first elected in 2018 and has a career average of 25.
- José Menéndez, a Democrat from San Antonio, represents Senate District 26. Menéndez was first elected to the Texas House in 2000 and to the Senate in 2015. He has a career average of 21.
- Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo, represents Senate District 21. Zaffirini was first elected in 1987. She has a career average of 26.
- Borris Miles, a Democrat from Houston, represents Senate District 13. Miles was first elected to the Texas House in 2006, where he served until 2009. He then served in the House from 2011 to 2017. He was elected to the Senate in 2016. He has a career average of 21.
Other Interesting Notes
One noticeable exclusion from the scorecard is Former State Representative Bryan Slaton. Slaton, who scored a 93 on YCT’s scorecard last session, was unanimously expelled from the Texas House in May 2023 for “inappropriate sexual conduct with an aide.”
HR 1542, the resolution to expel Slaton, was one of the votes considered in the scorecard. YCT supported the resolution stating, “Mr. Slaton’s behavior was morally bankrupt, indefensible, and makes him unworthy to hold office.”
Another exclusion from the scorecard was HR 2377, the resolution to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The resolution garnered the support of 121 members of the Texas House. 23 members opposed it.
In a comment to the Texas Horn, YCT Chairman Nate Dunning stated, “We deliberately chose not to include Ken Paxton’s impeachment vote due to the complexity of the situation and the diverse perspectives among respected conservatives.”
“It was not a clean vote,” Dunning stated,” There were credible allegations of serious wrongdoing, but we also had issues with the process used by the House General Investigating Committee.”
Dunning went on to state, ”For those reasons, we believed this vote did not distinctly reflect a member’s conservative principles one way or the other. At YCT, our primary focus is on evaluating legislative efforts that advance conservative principles. We stand by our ratings, staying true to this mission.”