Analysis: The 2021 Texas Senate, from left to right

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides over the Senate chambers on May 30, 2021.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides over the Senate chambers on May 30, 2021.

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.

Republicans

The 18 Republican senators fall into three general groups in regard to their location on the ideological spectrum.

At the most conservative end of the GOP ideological continuum are four senators: Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Drew Springer Jr. of Muenster, Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Bob Hall of Edgewood. All four have Lib-Con Scores that are significantly more conservative than those of more than four-fifths of the other 14 Republicans. Within this conservative quartet however, no senator is significantly more or less conservative than another.

At the least conservative end of the GOP ideological spectrum is a single senator, Kel Seliger of Amarillo. Seliger’s Lib-Con Score is significantly less conservative than that of each of his 17 fellow Republicans.

The remaining 13 Republicans fall into a middle category, ranging from Brian Birdwell of Granbury at the more conservative end to Larry Taylor of Friendswood at the other. The CIs of a majority of these 13 senators overlap, indicating that for most one-to-one comparisons within this group, neither senator is significantly more or less conservative than the other. The only exceptions are: Birdwell and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown are significantly more conservative than Taylor, Joan Huffman of Houston and Donna Campbell of New Braunfels; Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway are significantly more conservative than Taylor and Huffman; and Angela Paxton of McKinney is significantly more conservative than Taylor.

The median Senate Republicans, who represent the absolute center of the 18-member GOP Senate caucus, are Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and Paxton.

Democrats

The 13 Democratic senators also fall into three general groups in regard to their location on the ideological spectrum.

At the most liberal end of the Democratic ideological continuum is a single senator, Sarah Eckhardt of Austin. Her Lib-Con Score is significantly more liberal than that of every one of her 12 fellow Democrats.

Two South Texas senators, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, are at the least liberal end of the Democratic ideological spectrum. Both possess Lib-Con Scores that are significantly less liberal than those of every one of their 11 other Democratic colleagues. Neither Lucio Jr. nor Hinojosa is significantly more or less liberal than the other.

The group of 10 Democrats in the middle ranges from Borris Miles of Houston on the most liberal end to Beverly Powell of Burleson on the other. The CIs of a majority of these senators overlap, indicating that their Lib-Con Scores are not significantly different and that neither is more or less liberal than the other. The only exceptions are Miles, who is significantly more liberal than Powell, Judith Zaffirini of Laredo and Royce West of Dallas; John Whitmire of Houston, who is significantly more liberal than Powell and Zaffirini; and Carol Alvarado of Houston, Nathan Johnson of Dallas and Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, who are significantly more liberal than Powell.

The median Senate Democrat, who represents the absolute center of the 13-member Democratic Senate caucus, is José Menéndez of San Antonio.

Methodology

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 943 non-lopsided roll-call votes taken during the 2021 regular session.

As with previous rankings conducted in 2019, 2017 (post-special session), 2017 (regular session), 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 2021 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.

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.