January 14, 2020
Low YCT Scores Could Be PR Plus for Texas Reps
in Targeted Races and Democrats Fight for Speaker
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
The Young Conservatives of Texas might have given a Democratic state lawmaker an inadvertent boost in a bid for Texas House speaker on Tuesday when they branded him as the lower chamber's most liberal member in the regular session last year.
The YCT could have given several Texas House Republicans unintended gifts in the 2019 voting record rankings as well with failing scores that could be campaign advertising plums in re-election races in swing districts that Democrats will be targeting to various degrees in a quest to take the chamber back in November.
State Reps. Jeff Leach of Allen and Matt Shaheen of Plano - a pair of Republicans who are fighting for survival in districts that Democrats think they have a good chance to flip - landed grades of C on their YCT report cards despite reputations that they'd earned as two of the House's most conservative members who'd been Texas Freedom Caucus co-founders.
Two fellow Freedom Caucus charter members - State Reps. Matt Krause of Fort Worth and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington - could find Democrats using the high scores that they received from the Young Conservatives organization as weapons against them in suburban districts that could be vulnerable to a blue wave in the 2020 general election. Tinderholt joined GOP State Reps. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park and Mayes Middleton of Wallisville in a tie for the top spot on the YCT scoreboard with grades of 97.
Thirty House Republicans flunked the YCT test with grades in the 50s and 40s while a dozen GOP colleagues had slightly more conservative records with scores in the 60s. Ten GOP representatives scored in the 90s while seven House Republicans had B grades in the 80s.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia - a veteran Dallas lawmaker who launched a bid for speaker this past weekend - ranked dead last with a grade of 14 on the YCT scorecard based on selective votes that he cast during the Legislature's biennial gathering in 2019. Anchia is the only representative who's announced plans to seek the powerful job that GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen is giving up without a re-election race in 2020.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a former House Democrat who won the local post in June, ranked second to last in the Capitol's west wing on the Young Conservatives scale as a result of the voting record that he compiled in his final session as a legislator. Johnson had been the only Democratic candidate in an open race for speaker that Bonnen ended up winning at the start of the session last year.
With Bonnen headed for the exit in the aftermath of a targeting scandal in a chamber where Democrats could reclaim the majority with a net gain of eight or nine seats this fall, simultaneous battles for speaker will be getting under way on both sides of the aisle with Anchia as the first candidate out of the gates so far.
Two of Anchia's most formidable potential rivals in a 2021 leadership fight - Democratic State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio and Senfronia Thompson of Houston - had scores of 25 and 32 respectively on the Young Conservatives of Texas measuring stick for 2019.
A trio of lawmakers from border area districts - State Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Sergio Munoz of Mission and Richard Raymond of Laredo - were ranked by YCT as the most conservative Democrats in the House last year with scores of 42. Democratic State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg posted a grade of 40 on the YCT chart. Raymond has been mentioned as a possible contender in the Bonnen replacement race.
State Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston was rated to no surprise as the least conservative House Republican in the YCT eyes with a score of 40 for last year's regular session. The Young Conservatives probably were doing Davis a favor with the low rating that could strengthen her odds in a race for re-election in the most Democratic district that the GOP still controls. Davis is running unopposed in the March primary election with three Democrats competing for the right to challenge her in November in a district where she'd been a perennial primary target for conservatives until this year.
Veteran State Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth was the second most liberal Republican on the YCT scorecard with a rating of 43 while GOP State Reps. Ken King of Canadian and Lyle Larson of San Antonio both graded out at 48.
The four lowest-ranking Republicans across the rotunda - State Senators Pete Flores of Pleasanton, Joan Huffman of Houston, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Kel Seliger of Amarillo - garnered grades from the YCT in the 60s.
None of the Senate's 19 Republicans landed grades of A on the YCT report card for 2019. GOP State Senator Bob Hall of Edgewood crowned the YCT chart in the east wing with an 88 rating while Republican State Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola was second at 82. GOP State Senators Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills were tied for third with YCT grades of 80.
State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. of San Benito was the most conservative Democrat on the east side of the rotunda with a rating of 50 from the Young Conservatives who had State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin at the bottom of the pack with a grade of 26.
A dozen freshman Democrats who flipped House districts in 2018 scored between 17 and 27 on the YCT rankings with State Reps. Erin Zwiener of Driftwood and Ana-Maria Ramos of Richardson on the low and high ends repsectively.
All of the Democrats who rode a blue wave to victory in Republican districts in the last election cycle can be expected to be portrayed as unabashed liberals by GOP foes this year regardless of the grades that they've received from conservative organizations for votes they cast in their legislative debuts.