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The Ten Best and Ten Worst of 2009

It’s time for that other biennial tradition known as the Texas Monthly Best and Worst Legislators list.

And so another session is on the books. This legislative wrap-up marks the nineteenth time, beginning with the Sixty-Third Legislature, in 1973, that we have compiled our list of the Best and Worst lawmakers. Our criteria are those that members apply to one another: Who is trustworthy? Who gets things done? Who brings credit upon the Legislature and who brings shame? Who does his homework? Who looks for ways to solve problems and who looks for ways to create them? Who is hamstrung by ideology and partisanship and who can rise above them? Politics is not just about conservatives and liberals and Republicans and Democrats. It is and always will be about personality and relationships and comportment—not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ve reproduced the list, sent to me in a press release, beneath the fold. You’ll need to click the link above to get the full comments that come with them. I can honestly say that nobody’s appearance on the list surprises me, given the criteria used to create it. I’d come up with a different list, but then I’d arrive at mine via different means, so to each their own. The main thing I’ll add is that it was clear early on that Sen. Wendy Davis was destined for honor, and I expect her to be a fixture on the Ten Best list until she gets elected to a higher office some day. Oh, and that it was sweet to see Dan Patrick’s minion Allen Fletcher make the Ten Worst list on his first try. Congrats to all the winners, and to the others, Harold Cook has a word of advice for you. Elise, who interviews two-time Ten Bester Sen. Kirk Watson, Matt Glazer, Glenn Smith, and Greg have more.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Contact: Cathy S. Casey, Senior Editor



Austin, Texas — June 5, 2009 — At a press conference today, Texas Monthly president and editor in chief Evan Smith revealed the Best and Worst Legislators of 2009. Texas Monthly has published its Best and Worst list following every session since the magazine was founded, in 1973.  


Senator John Carona, Republican, Dallas

      “Changing the rules to win? Not his style.” 

Senator Robert Duncan, Republican, Lubbock

      “Brings his accumulated knowledge and wisdom to bear on a colossal agenda of real consequence.” 

Craig Eiland, Democrat, Galveston

      “Made difficult parliamentary rulings in a soothing voice that managed to take the edge off the partisan enmity.” 

Rob Eissler, Republican, the Woodlands

      “This was the best session for the public schools in years, and he was the main reason.” 

Brian McCall, Republican, Plano

      “Sought to demolish the authoritarian, partisan model for the speakership that Craddick had created and replace it with one that was based on fairness rather than fear.” 

John Otto, Republican, Dayton

      “The Legislature’s premier fiscal watchdog.” 

Jim Pitts, Republican, Waxahachie

      “Has a personality that leads his colleagues to want him to succeed.” 

Senfronia Thompson, Democrat, Houston

      “Universally loved and respected, not just for what she does but also for who she is.” 

Senator Kirk Watson, Democrat, Austin

      “The thoughtful leader of the loyal opposition.” 

John Zerwas, Republican, Richmond

      “Approached health care issues pragmatically.” 


Wayne Christian, Republican, Center

      “Emblematic of the problems that have enveloped the party nationwide and have it teetering on the edge of irrelevance.” 

Yvonne Davis, Democrat, Dallas

      “Hasn’t learned a fundamental lesson of politics, as expounded by the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want.” 

Jim Dunnam, Democrat, Waco

      “Destroyed the session over voter ID.” 

Allen Fletcher, Republican, Tomball

      “A freshman has to be awful, really awful, to be named a Worst.” 

Kino Flores, Democrat, Palmview

      “No sitting member has brought more discredit upon the Legislature.” 

Senator Troy Fraser, Republican, Horseshoe Bay

      “Plumbed new depths of self-absorption.” 

Senator Mario Gallegos, Democrat, Houston

      “The old Mario is back. We don’t mean this in a good way.” 

Richard Peña Raymond, Democrat, Laredo

      “Has never learned how to play with others on the playground.” 

Debbie Riddle, Republican, Tomball

      “Her incompetence ends up doing real harm.” 

Senator Tommy Williams, Republican, the Woodlands

      “Squandered his attributes for partisan reasons—much to the state’s detriment.”  


Senator Kip Averitt, Republican, Waco

Dan Branch, Republican, Dallas

Senator Bob Deuell, Republican, Greenville

Ruth Jones McClendon, Democrat, San Antonio

Mark Strama, Democrat, Austin

Michael Villarreal, Democrat, San Antonio 


Carl Isett, Republican, Lubbock 
Betty Brown, Republican, Terrell 
Norma Chávez, Democrat, El Paso 
David Leibowitz, Democrat, San Antonio 
Tommy Merritt, Republican, Longview


Charles “Doc” Anderson, Republican, Waco

Fred Brown, Republican, Bryan

Al Edwards, Democrat, Houston

Joe Farias, Democrat, San Antonio

Senator Chris Harris, Republican, Arlington

Tim Kleinschmidt, Republican, Lexington

Senator Eddie Lucio, Democrat, Brownsville

Solomon Ortiz Jr., Democrat, Corpus Christi

Inocente “Chente” Quintanilla, Democrat, El Paso

Ralph Sheffield, Republican, Temple 


Senator Wendy Davis, Democrat, Fort Worth 


Roland Gutierrez, Democrat, San Antonio 


Senator Judith Zaffirini, Democrat, Laredo 

The story and the cover of the July 2009 issue are available to the media at 

Founded in 1973 by Michael R. Levy, Texas Monthly has a circulation of 300,000 and is read by more than 2.5 million people each month—one out of every eight Texas adults. Texas Monthly is published by Emmis Publishing, L.P. Emmis owns and operates radio stations and other regional magazines.

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