June 2, 2009
and Republicans Land Six Spots
Each on First Team Dominated by Moderates
Capitol Inside Editor
Martinez Fischer (D)
Van de Putte (D)
Capitol Inside Best of the Legislature
list for 2009 is a moderates' dream team that
by no accidental coincidence reflects the center-lane
approach that seemed to define the regular session
that ground to a half late Monday night.
a Texas Capitol where the House was almost evenly
divided and the Senate was forced to work in a
bipartisan fashion as a result of the two-thirds
rule, it's probably fitting that six Republicans
and six Democrats made first team this year on
the web site's biennial all-star squad. The
House placed seven members on the top tier of
the list of the best performances by legislators
during the 140-day regular session while five
state senators joined them on the first team.
Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican who
shocked the state political establishment when
he won the speaker's race in January on the first
day of his third term, has the distinction of
Most Valuable Republican Player on the best legislators'
ranking for 2009. In what could be construed as
an indirect victory for Straus, Galveston State
Rep. Craig Eiland, the House speaker pro tem,
is the Most Valuable Democratic Player on this
House delegation on the list of the Legislature's
most outstanding performances includes Democratic
State Reps. Jim Dunnam of Waco, Ruth Jones McClendon
of San Antonio and Senfronia Thompson of Houston,
who all were named to the first team for remarkably
different reasons. Republican State Reps. Dan
Branch of Dallas and Jim Pitts of Waxahachie are
first team as well.
Senate is represented on the first team by Democratic
State Senators Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa
of McAllen and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo on the
first team along with Republican
State Senators Kip Averitt of Waco, Robert Duncan
of Lubbock and Florence Shapiro of Plano.
Hinojosa and Dunnam are the only repeat performers
on the first team just two years after achieving
that same honor in the wake of the last regular
session in 2007.
list of the top 12 legislators this year is diverse
with two Hispanics, Hinojosa and Zaffirini and
two African-Americans in McClendon and Thompson.
Three women - Shapiro, Thompson and McClendon
- are first teamers in 2009.
conservative Republicans might tend to classify
most if not all of the Democrats on the first
team as liberals, none of the legislators who
share that distinction are apt to be found at
either end of the political philosophical spectrum.
It wasn't designed to be that way. That's simply
how it fell into place when legislators were critiqued
based on the quality of individual performances
that they turned in at the Capitol during the
course of the past five months.
of the 11 House Republicans who banded behind
Straus and put him in position to win the speaker's
race are listed on first team or honorable mention.
Whether you think those particular legislators
did a good or bad job beyond that particular point
doesn't change the fact that the informal nomination
of Straus as the alternative speaker candidate
set the stage for a complete House overhaul -
good, bad or otherwise.