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California’s Legislature is dominated by Democrats, but there’s blue — and then there’s the deepest, darkest blue.
Thanks to some newly released rankings based on every single legislative vote, we now have a good idea of which lawmakers are the bluest of the blue — and the reddest of the red.
The fascinating data dive reported by CalMatters — a nonprofit online news organization based in Sacramento — scores lawmakers from 0 to 100, with 0 being the most liberal and 100 the most conservative.
Three state senators — Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, Bob Wieckowski of the Bay Area and recently elected Lena Gonzalez of Los Angeles County — had the most liberal score possible: 0.
State Sen. Bill Monning, who represents San Luis Obispo County, wasn’t far off: He ranked 4 out of 100.
Eight Democrats in the state Assembly scored zero: Marc Levine, Buffy Wicks, Phil Ting, Mark Stone and Ash Kalra, all of the Bay Area; Sydney Kamlager-Dove of the Los Angeles area; Lorena Gonzalez and Todd Gloria of the San Diego area.
On the other side of the aisle, three Republican senators, all them clustered in the southern end of the state, scored 100 out of 100: Brian Jones, Jeff Stone and Mike Morrell.
Two Republican Assembly members rated 100: Frank Bigelow, who represents the Gold Country and the Sierra Nevada, and Melissa Melendez of Riverside County.
San Luis Obispo County’s assembly member, Republican Jordan Cunningham of Templeton, ranked 70 out of 100 — one of the most moderate voting records in the entire Legislature.
Given that San Luis Obispo is a purple county — Democrats hold a narrow, 805-voter lead over Republicans, according to the latest registration tally — that’s not a surprise.
The analysis uses software developed by political scientists at UCLA, USC, the University of Georgia and Rice University.
What makes it a valuable tool for constituents is the comprehensiveness of the review.
There are many lawmaker scorecards out there, but most concentrate on particular issues — the environment, reproductive rights and gun control are some common ones. According to CalMatters, this system analyzes every vote and uses an algorithm that examines how often lawmakers vote with one another.
What it shows, in other words, is how closely politicians hew to the party line.
The answer: Much more often than not.
Most Democrats were clustered at the far left of the spectrum, scoring 10 or less.
And most Republicans were bunched on the far right, scoring 90 or more.
Only one lawmaker was smack in the middle: Republican Tyler Diep of Orange County, who scored 49.
Apparently, it doesn’t pay to be in the middle.
“Candidates often have little reason to appeal to the political center,” writes Ben Christopher of CalMatters, “because the center generally doesn’t show up.”
The Legislature wasn’t always so polarized.
The data go back as far as 1993, and show, over time, a steady progression away from the middle.
In 1999, for example, there were only a few outliers at the extreme ends of the spectrum. What’s most striking is the substantial number of Republicans in the liberal-to-moderate range, including Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, who represented San Luis Obispo County.
The question today is, where do we go from here?
Do moderates have any future in California politics?
It’s possible — but it will require a change in voting patterns; moderate voters will have to defy conventional wisdom by showing up and voting for candidates who match their views.