Tag Archives: Boris Shor

Who are the Most Progressive Members of the House of Delegates?


Blue Indicates Reelected Delegate

The above table contains a list of the 84, or 60 percent, most progressive delegates going into the 2014 elections, according to Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty’s measure of state legislator ideology. Remember that the lower the score (i.e. the more negative or left on the number line), the more progressive the legislator.

Interpreting the Scores

Two key caveats need to be remembered when interpreting the table. First, two legislators–David Fraser-Hidalgo and Steven Arentz–were appointed too recently to have scores and are not included. (Unlike for the Senate, scores are also unavailable for newly elected legislators; most new senators were former delegates.)

Second, the the tradition of the House is that legislators vote with their committee on the key second reading of bills that have emerged from their committee. The basic rationale is that legislators should not have a second bite at the apple and go along with the results of their committee. Adherence to this tradition would alter a legislator’s score if they would have otherwise voted differently.

As a rough cut, the top four deciles, or 40% of the House, are all solid progressives or liberals (pick your favorite) on most issues. The fifth and sixth deciles, who formed the middle 20% ideologically of the old House, were more center left with legislators becoming more moderate as the scores get closer to zero.

Departure of Moderate Democrats

Liberalism appears somewhat related to the likelihood that a legislator from the old House will return in the new one. Consider that 11, or 26%, of the 42 most progressive legislators (i.e. the top three deciles) will not return in 2015. But among the 42 next most progressive legislators (i.e. the fourth through sixth deciles), 17, or 40%, will not serve in the new House.

(The numbers indicate the same conclusion if one divides the two groups between the third and fourth deciles. In the top four deciles, 29% of the 56 won’t return, as compared to 43% of the 28 delegates in the fifth and sixth most progressive deciles.)

The 13 most moderate Democrats are not shown in the table. Perhaps most tellingly, 8 or 62% of them will not be coming back. And none left because they moved to the Senate. As detailed in Friday’s post, many lost reelection to Republicans in the “Massacre of the Moderates.”

The Speaker and His Caucus

Notice that Speaker Michael Busch was slightly left of center in his old caucus (remember 13 Democrats are not in the tables). He seems likely to be slightly right of the center in his new caucus, as more moderates were defeated. Moreover, it seems quite possible that newly elected legislators will be more left wing than the delegates who preceded them in office.

The Most Progressive Returning Legislators

Interestingly, the three most progressive returning legislators according to the Shor-McCarty measure sat in the Senate: (1) Rich Madaleno, (2) Paul Pinsky, and (3) Roger Manno. However, the next two were members of the House: (4) Susan Lee, and (5) Bonnie Cullison, though Lee is moving from the House to the Senate when the new General Assembly convenes.


Massacre of the Moderates

Moderates in the House of Delegates did not have a good election. The following is a list of the 21 most moderate delegates going into the 2014 elections, according to Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty’s measure of state legislator ideology:


Among the 21 moderates, only six ran and won reelection. All but one seat that flipped parties was held by a moderate. Seven moderate incumbents went down to defeat: six Democrats and one Republican. Additionally, three seats vacated by Democratic incumbents were picked up Republicans.

The replacement of nine moderate Democratic incumbents by Republicans will push the Democratic Caucus to the Left. It may also make the Republican Caucus more conservative; junior members of both parties have tended to be less moderate than senior members of their party in Congress.

All of the nine seats picked up by Republicans were in territory that leans Republican in other elections, which should make it easier for the GOP to hold them in the future and for their delegates to take conservative positions. In safe seats, candidates fear primaries more than general elections.

Five moderates were replaced by new members of the same party. In three cases (Districts 4, 33, and 37B), these seats are safe for the Republicans. One more district also leans strongly, if slightly less securely, toward the Democrats. As a result, it would not surprise if the four new members were less moderate than their predecessors. (Only District 34A, previously held by Democratic Del. Mary-Dulany James, is tough territory for their party.)

Previously, the ideological distance between the most moderate Democrat and Republican was only 0.164. Based on who is left, that gap would rise to 0.598, leaving the two parties more clearly divided into clean camps than before the election.


Republican Senate Conservatism Varies–But Not Too Much

GOP SenToday, 7S looks at Republicans using the data provided by Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty of state legislator ideology. Remember that a more positive score indicates a more conservative senator, so the bottom of the table are the most conservative. Put another way, the closer to zero, the more moderate the senator. These scores are for the legislator’s entire career in the General Assembly and include House as well as Senate service.

Republican scores range from 0.330 for Sen. George Edwards (R-Garrett, Allegany and Washington) and 1.200 for Senator-Elect Gail Bates (R-Howard). (Three incoming Republican senators do not have scores because they have never served in the General Assembly.) In contrast, the most progressive Democrat, Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), has a score of -1.864 and the most moderate Democrat, Sen. Jim Brochin (D-Baltimore County) receives a rating of -0.285.

Two of the three most moderate Republicans represent Western Maryland–Edwards and Sen. Christopher Shank (R-Washington). However, the two Eastern Shore Republicans are not close ideologically with Senator-Elect Addie Eckardt (R-Mid Shore) more moderate than Sen. Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore).

Similarly, the two Anne Arundel senators are not an ideological matched set. Sen. Ed Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) is the second most conservative senator while Sen. Bryan Simonaire (Anne Arundel) is more moderate, though the ideological distance is smaller than for the two Shore Republicans.

Perhaps most critical is that all Republicans are notably more conservative than all Democrats. The distance between the most moderate Democrat and Republican (0.615) is greater than that between the most conservative Republican, Senator-Elect Bates, and the second most “moderate” Republican, Senator-Elect Eckardt. And even the most moderate Republcian, Sen. Edwards, is closer to all but three Republicans than the most moderate Democrat.


New Senate Set for Greater Polarization

MD Senate Id Change

Past posts have mentioned that the new Maryland General Assembly will be more polarized than the previous one. But what is the measurable impact of the election? Fortunately, since many new senators were formerly delegates, there are measures of their ideology in relation to other legislators.

Using the same dataset provided by Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty of state legislator ideology mentioned in previous posts, this post examines directly the ideology of incoming senators as compared to the people they are replacing. (The scale ranges from around -1.9 for the most liberal Democrat to 1.2 for the most conservative Republican with moderates closest to zero.)

In two cases, measures are not available but the impact is clear. Sens. Roy Dyson and Norm Stone were among the most very moderate members of the Democratic Caucus. They are being replaced by conservative Republicans. These changes will leave the Democrats more liberal and quite possibly also make the Republicans more conservative.

Two cases of Republicans being replaced by fellow Republicans will clearly make the GOP Caucus more conservative. Del. Gail Bates is more conservative than Alan Kittleman. Similarly, Del. Wayne Norman is also more conservative than Sen. Barry Glassman.

There are seven cases with less dramatic changes. Despite the fierce primary, Del. Michael Hough’s voting record has not been dramatically more conservative than Sen. Michael Brinkley. Theirs may be a difference more of style than of substance. But a more confrontational style likely exacerbates polarization.

In Howard County, Del. Guy Guzzone is a bit more liberal than outgoing Sen. Jim Robey. Del. Susan Lee is just a tad more liberal than AG-Elect Brian Frosh. Retiring Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell has a somewhat less liberal voting record than Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam. The impact of the replacement of conservative Sen. Nancy Jacobs by Bob Casilly is less clear but it would be surprising if he turns out to be less conservative than Jacobs.

In two cases, changes may mildly reduce polarization. During her previous service in the House, Cheryl Kagan was a bit less liberal than outgoing Sen. Jennie Forehand. Similarly, Del. Addie Eckardt is a tad less conservative than defeated Sen. Richard Colburn. She is also viewed as a more thoughtful and productive member of the General Assembly than Colburn, who focused on scoring political points rather than shaping legislation.

The Overall Impact

Excluding the three seats won by people who have not served previously in the General Assembly, here are the calculations for the overall ideology of the Senate.

Median D: -1.107 (change of -0.005).
Mean D: -1.115 (change of -0.047).

Median R: 0.881 (change of 0.124).
Mean R: 0.883 (change of 0.062).

Increase in Polarization (Medians): 0.13 (7% increase).
Increase in Polarization (Means): 0.11 (6% increase).

Remember that these calculations underestimate increases in polarization because they exclude the two cases that will have the most dramatic impact–the replacement of Dyson and Stone–especially on the Democratic side as they were among the five most moderate Democrats in the Senate.


Polarization Up in the Maryland General Assembly

Political scientists Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty have developed measures of state legislator ideology similar to the NOMINATE scores presented in yesterday’s post on congressional polarization. The Shor and McCarty scores are considered the best measures of state legislator ideology by political scientists and were developed through spatial modeling techniques that allow comparability both across states and years.

For individual legislators, more positive scores indicate greater conservatism while more negative scores indicate greater liberalism. The scores only range so low and high. A very rough indicator suggests that legislators with scores above 1 are especially conservative and legislators with scores below -1 are particularly liberal. Moderate legislators receive scores closer to zero.

In both the House of Delegates and the Senate, differences between the median Republican and median Democrats in each chamber have widened over time , as the figure below shows. (If there were no difference in the ideology of each member, the difference measure would equal zero.)


Since 1996, partisan differences in the House of Delegates have increased from 1.71 to 1.96–a gain of 15%. The Senate started with lower polarization but has now almost caught up as differences rose from 1.22 to 1.84–a gain of 51%.

The rise in polarization is not due entirely to changes in the ideology of just Republicans or just Democrats. Republicans have become more conservative while Democrats have moved to the left. The median House Democrat is now 13% more liberal than in 1996 and the median House Republican is 17% more conservative.


The same process has occurred in the Senate, though Republicans have lurched more to the right than Democrats have to the left. The biggest change occurred after the 1998 elections when several moderate Republicans were replaced by more conservative members of their party.


Since 1996, Democratic liberalism has risen by 16%–a comparable change to that in the House–but Republican conservatism has shot up by 264%. This change is less drastic than it sounds. Senate Republicans in 2013 were still a tad less conservative than their counterparts in the House.

The party caucuses have not just become more ideologically different. They have also become more cohesive. The following figure shows the standard deviation in the Shor-McCarty scores for each year and party in both houses:


The decline in the standard deviation means that there is less variation around the average score for each party. In other words, Republicans are not just more conservative, they are also more cohesively conservative. The same is true for Democrats. But Democrats were much less cohesive than Republicans in 2013, reflecting that more moderate Democrats had survived than moderate Republicans.

Next up: the likely impact of the 2014 elections.