Every session, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility releases the Fiscal Responsibility Index, a scorecard which tracks the voting records of Texas House and Senate members on fiscal policy issues. And every session members of the legislature who don’t like voters knowing how they act when they are in Austin complain about it. We cherry pick votes, they say. We have a hidden agenda, they whine.

And every session we point them to other groups, like Young Conservatives of Texas, Texas Eagle Forum, and Texas Right to Life, who have scorecards that all seem to follow each other pretty closely in their ranking. In the last two sessions, we have even been able to point voters to an independent scientific study by Mark Jones of Rice University which confirms our results.

Now yet another group has jumped into the mix with a scorecard confirming what many of us already knew: There are a lot of moderate Republicans in the Texas House and some of those are even more liberal than some of the Democrats.

The new group is the American Conservative Union, a group which has published ratings of Congress for many years. Because of that, we can now make fun comparisons between our least favorite state officials and our least favorite national politicians. For example, did you know that ACU ranked seven Republican Texas House members as having lower scores than the career scores of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (retired), the notoriously liberal Republican senators from Maine?

Focusing exclusively on the Texas House, there were four House Republicans who received scores from ACU that were either equal to or lesser than some of their Democratic colleagues.

Republican House Chairmen Drew Darby and John Zerwas and liberal Republican newcomer JD Sheffield all took home scores of 36% on the ACU scorecard. This was the same score earned by South Texas Democrat Tracy King. Further it was a full seven points lower than the scores taken home by pro-abortion Republican Sarah Davis and Democrats Ryan Guillen and Joe Pickett.

These scores should come as no shock because they closely track the scores for these legislators on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. JD Sheffield, for example, earned a 27.5 on the TFR Index this session.

These weren’t the only Republican legislators who ACU found to have more in common with their liberal colleagues than conservatives. All of the following Republican representatives took home a score of 60% or below:

Jimmie Don Aycock (57%)
Byron Cook (57%)
Drew Darby (36%)
Sarah Davis (43%)
Marsha Farney (50%)
Charlie Geren (54%)
Todd Hunter (57%)
Kyle Kacal (45%)
Jim Keffer (58%)
Ken King (57%)
John Kuempel (57%)
Lyle Larson (57%)
JM Lozano (46%)
Doug Miller (57%)
Jim Pitts (46%)
Four Price (57%)
John Raney (54%)
Bennett Ratliff (54%)
JD Sheffield (36%)
Wayne Smith (50%)
John Zerwas (36%)

Returning to the four members, Darby, Davis, Sheffield, and Zerwas, who scored lower than Democrats, it’s worth observing some shocking facts about each of them. First, Davis and Sheffield are facing strong primary challengers in Bonnie Parker and Danny Pelton, respectively. But the two are apparently willing to lie to their voters in their efforts for reelection. Rather than honestly embrace her center-of-the-aisle voting record, Sarah Davis calls herself “Your Conservative Voice in Austin” on the front page of her website. Likewise, JD Sheffield’s campaign logo and signs are emblazoned with the label “Conservative Republican” despite the fact that the Gatesville Republican was the most outspoken proponent of the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion in Texas.

But more shocking than the deception of Davis and Sheffield is the power wielded in Austin by the other two more-liberal-than-Democrats Republicans. Darby and Zerwas, along with Rep. John Otto, who we recently exposed as a “Creature of Austin” for taking all of his campaign cash from PACs and lobbyists, are apparently participating in an “intense behind-the-scenes campaign” to earn Speaker Joe Straus’s favor and be appointed the next Chairman of Appropriations.

It is a frightening reflection on the failed leadership of House Speaker Joe Straus that it is only the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House who are being considered for one of the most powerful positions in Texas government. Unless something is done to change things — and soon — we can count on another bloated budget during the 84th Texas Legislature.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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