Voters have been quietly busy separating the wheat from the chaff. Of the 31 Texas House Republicans making worse than a “C” on our 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Index, five years later nearly three-fourths have retired or been defeated—and nearly all have been replaced by much stronger conservatives.
Meanwhile, more than half of those getting an award for their fiscal responsibility in 2007 are still serving in the House or have been “promoted” to the Texas Senate. (None of the ‘failures’ have moved up.)
It’s rarely easy for voters to knock-off entrenched incumbents. After all, it took two runs to get rid of Vicki ‘raise the gas tax‘ Truitt of Southlake, who was trounced by political newcomer Giovanni Capriglione.
State Rep. Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville wasn’t even a Republican when that 2007 scorecard came out, and wasn’t even in the top 10 of the Democrats. He swapped parties but not records, and was put to pasture this year by conservative Travis Clardy.
It took blind ambition driven by re-election fear to get rid of Todd Smith, an erratic legislator known for his temper as much as his poor voting record. Faced with a challenge by energetic newcomer Jonathan Stickland, Smith bailed on his House race and aimed for an open senate seat. He was handed a career-ending defeat by budget-hawk Kelly Hancock.
In 2007 and 2009, Burt Solomons was among the worst-voting legislators. He nearly lost to an unfunded, unknown candidate who challenged from the right. Mr. Solomons significantly improved his 2011 record – earning the “Taxpayer Champion” award in the process – but retired rather than face another run.
Just this year the affable – if poorly voting – Rick Hardcastle of Vernon hung up his legislative hat, but not before endorsing a tax-and-spend moderate. Voters disregarded his endorsement, handing a landslide victory to conservative Drew Springer.
Not all fiscal failures fully go away. Fred Hill of Richardson famously closed down his district office and faded from sight after the 2007 session. He retired, but only to re-emerge as a lobbyist working against taxpayer interests.
Warren Chisum of Pampa was on that 2007 worst-of list. He slightly improved his score in 2009 and 2011, before attempting a run for statewide office this spring — which he lost right after endorsing a self-admitted tax-raiser for office.
Only one legislator on the 2007 bad-grade roster has consistently and significantly improved his record: State Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Brazoria County, who is now a Taxpayer Champion.
Some of the few remaining disappointments from ’07 include House Speaker Joe Straus’ chief lieutenants Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Jim Keffer of Eastland. As they look around, their brand of big-government, high-tax Republicans are disappearing fast. Also still around is State Rep. Dan Branch, who briefly flirted with a better voting record in 2009, only to drop to a C in 2011. He is widely rumored to have statewide ambitions for 2014.
As the record of the last five years demonstrates, Texas conservative voters are increasingly concerned with overreaching government and won’t long suffer Republicans whose records don’t match the mood of the people.