Author Profile

Mark P. Jones

Fellow in political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute


Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s fellow in political science and the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University. He is also a co-author of Texas Politics Today.

Latest Columns

A more progressive Texas: From Travis County to Smith County

During the latter half of the current decade, the ideological positions of Texans in counties across the state have moved to the left. A combination of generational replacement, migration and attitudinal change has resulted in all but five of the state’s 22 most populous counties experiencing a shift to the left among registered voters.

Dennis Bonnen, a Goldilocks Speaker for Texas Republicans?

Many Republicans were critical of Tom Craddick for being excessively conservative and partisan (as well as too authoritarian) and critical of Joe Straus for being insufficiently conservative and partisan. Dennis Bonnen’s legislative record suggests he may turn out to be the Texas GOP’s "Just Right" Goldilocks Speaker.

Texas: No country for young voters?

In the four general elections held so far this decade, Texas has consistently ranked in the bottom five among the 50 states in turning out its voting eligible population. And within the state, younger Texans have voted at a much lower rate than their elders.

Two distinct Democratic options in the SD-19 special election

The 19th Senate District covers all or part of 17 counties, with three-fifths of its voters concentrated in Bexar County and the remainder spread across 16 largely rural and semi-rural counties south and west of the Alamo City. The winner of this month's special election will be in a privileged position from which to seek re-election in 2020.

The Texas House districts most vulnerable to flipping in 2018

Even under an unlikely worst-case scenario for the Texas GOP, in January of 2019 the partisan distribution of forces in the Texas House would still be 82 Republicans to 68 Democrats. Today, a more realistic scenario would project a Republican delegation of between 87 and 93 representatives in 2019 and a Democratic delegation of between 57 and 63.

The 2017 Texas House & Senate, from left to right: Post special-session edition

With candidates filing for the 2018 elections, and the Legislature apparently — finally — done for the year, I have updated my earlier ranking of members of the 2017 Texas House of Representatives and Senate. This includes votes from the regular session and from the summer special session, ranking lawmakers from most liberal to most conservative based on an analysis of 1,575 House and 1,831 Senate roll-call votes.

The decline of Democratic influence in the Texas House: 2009-2017

Centrist Republicans rule the roost in the Texas House. That has not changed since the 2009 coup that ousted Craddick. What has changed is the structure of legislative alliances. Between 2009 and 2014, the dominant alliance was between Democrats and centrist Republicans, with many movement conservative Republicans often finding bills they opposed passing over their objections.

Partisan redistricting in Texas: How much is too much?

Our analysis of the current Texas delegation to the U.S. House, state Senate and state House of Representatives plans suggests that under a novel test presented by the plaintiffs in a Wisconsin case, and heavily referenced by a federal lower court, Texas’s congressional redistricting plan is likely unconstitutional while the Texas Senate and Texas House redistricting plans are constitutional.

The conservative drift of the Texas Senate: 2011-2017

Between 2011 and 2017 an already conservative Texas Senate shifted even further to the right. The total number of Republican senators increased by only one during this period (from 19 to 20), explaining very little of this shift. However, 14 Republican senators were replaced by fellow Republicans, and each Republican successor was more conservative than his/her predecessor — most, significantly so.

The 2017 Texas House, from left to right

These differences underscore the Texas House’s de facto tripartite party system: Democrats, Centrist Conservative Republicans and Tea Party/Movement Conservative Republicans. The boundary that defines which side of the GOP civil war battle line a Republican representative falls on is loose and shifting compared to the clear-cut partisan battle line that separates Democrats from Republicans.

Another warning sign for Texas Democrats

Texas Democrats’ electoral woes are well known, and their chances next week don't look good. What’s gotten less attention is the underlying problem that helps explain the party’s descent into political purgatory: party ID.