Legislators’ Report Card: The Go-To Republicans

A team report by Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish and Wendy Norris.

The legislative success of a minority party member can be attributed to equal measures of personal charisma, strategic alliance-building, political moderation, and good old-fashioned hard work.

In this installment of our end-of-session report card, we analyze the most effective Republican state lawmakers in both chambers with some interesting and unexpected results.

Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) earned a whopping 75 points placing him in 4th place among all House members and in the top spot amid his fellow republicans. Every one of his sponsored bills and 70 percent of his co-sponsored bills were signed by the governor this session. Massey accumulated more than twice the total score of Sen. Nancy Spence, the 10th ranked GOP lawmaker.

Notable is the geographic diversity: not one of the top 10 “Go-To Republicans” is from the conservative Colorado Springs metro area. In fact, half of the list consists of Massey and his fellow Western Slope colleagues: Reps. White (R-Winter Park) and Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), and Senators Jack Taylor (R-Steamboat Springs) and Josh Penry (R-Fruita).

Additionally, three freshmen lawmakers joined the top ranked republicans: Reps. Roberts and Don Marostica (R-Loveland), and Sen. Josh Penry, a former House member but new to the Senate.

Another discovery in this analysis with future political implications for the Colorado Republican Party is that Sen. Steve Johnson (R-Fort Collins, a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, recently indicated that he will not seek re-election in 2008 and will instead run for Larimer County commissioner. Also, both Sen. Taylor and Rep. White are term-limited next year.

In an interesting twist of numerical fate, Sen. Spence earned a slot here as well as the least effective senator list. Additionally, she is the only member of either chamber’s GOP leadership to be named among those who seem to be getting things done. The most likely explanation for her dual listing is the Senate democrats’ five seat advantage that makes this type of overlap likely since the more ideologically-driven senators are earning very low point scores.

It appears that the primary advantage of all these GOP lawmakers can be summed up by two simple but specific tactics:

  • craft non-ideologically-laden sponsored bills and carefully shepherd them through committee
  • co-sponsor a lot of bills nearly exclusively with members of the majority party rather than your own caucus

Lastly, hard right Republicans tend to derogatively refer to many of these legislators as RINOs, or “Republicans in Name Only.” Yet, according to our analysis, the relatively moderate politicians, or those who temper their socially conservative beliefs while in the legislation sausage-making process, are the most successful in passing laws – especially when faced with the reality of minority party status.

Our coverage continues tomorrow with a look at which lawmaker is the most prolific co-sponsor and who is a wallflower.

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