Robert Hurt, flaming liberal?

Sen. Robert Hurt has repeatedly accused Congressman Tom Perriello of being in the pocket of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi for voting with her 90% of the time, including just a few minutes ago, during their debate here in Charlottesville. Assuming that statistic is (I have no idea), I thought I’d run a quick comparison of Hurt’s own voting record.

I compared four years of the votes cast by Hurt in the state senate (in which he is the most conservative member) to those cast by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (in which she is the most liberal member).

Sen. Hurt and Sen. Whipple voted the same way 1,833 times out of 2,342 shared votes, or 78% of the time. And they’re members of the opposite party—the two farthest-apart members of the senate!

For a comparison more like what Hurt is lobbing at Perriello, I looked at the farthest-left Republican in the senate, Sen. Fred Quayle. Hurt and Quayle voted identically 87% of the time.

The point of this isn’t to say that Hurt is a Democrat. The point is that calculating batting averages like this is meaningless. Votes that survive the committee process to finally get a floor vote tend strongly to pass. The point of the committee process is to weed out the bills that aren’t likely to pass; the ones that make it to the floor are ones that most members agree on. Knowing that Perriello and Pelosi vote together 90% of the time tells us absolutely nothing. Hurt must know that, having served in the General Assembly for eight years. It’s disappointing to me that he keeps claiming that statistic means something, when obviously it does not.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

10 replies on “Robert Hurt, flaming liberal?”

  1. Actually, Waldo, there is a world of difference between Speaker Pelosi and Senator Whipple, on the one hand, and the House of Representatives and the Senate of Virginia, on the other. I say this with the greatest respect for both women and institutions.

    One, while Senator Whipple may well be the most liberal member of the VA Senate (conceding only for argument’s sake), she would rate closer to the middle than the fringe of this Congress on many issues. The Speaker, however, cannot be argued to be anywhere close to the middle.

    Second, in this Congress, there are a great many measures that come to the floor in other than regular order – that is, the majority brings up bills by fiat and not necessarily to pass judgment on the committee’s work. The climate and health care bills are perfect examples, where Pelosi-controlled Rules rewrote subject matter committee bills, whipped the vote, then published the bills under rules that allowed no amendments on the floor. Senator Whipple operates under no such constraints. In fact, a great many bills are debated at length and amended on the floor of the VA Senate – perhaps less than a decade ago, but tons more than under any Congressional standard. The point is, that floor amendments allow floor votes that are much less partisan than you will do it or else.

    So, this is one case where apples to apples requires more than a cursory look at voting percentages. Rep. Periello is, by all accounts, a fine person, and no doubt a better Congressman than his predecessor. But his voting record is far more liberal than Sen. Hurt’s by a truly objective measure. No doubt, that may be a plus for you and many others, and a negative for many. And while you are entitled to your opinion, and I respect it, you are not entitled to your facts, and it’s those that I dispute.

  2. And while you are entitled to your opinion, and I respect it, you are not entitled to your facts, and it’s those that I dispute.

    Of course, but…which facts? You haven’t disputed any of them. :) Your conclusion is the same as mine: “this is one case where apples to apples requires more than a cursory look at voting percentages.”

  3. I think you’ve both made your points.

    1. The use of voting statistics is misleading, since the vast majority of votes are non-controversial, and even the most conservative and most liberal members of a body are likely to vote together more than half the time.

    2. Periello is to the left of Hurt. No shock there.

    What I WOULD say, though, is Periello is no Pelosi clone; if so, he would not have been endorsed by the NRA and veterans’ groups. While he is indeed a Democrat, he does vote his conscience and appears to toe the party line less often than others in the Democratic caucus.

    I have seen no evidence that Hurt would be similarly independent of his caucus, no rhetoric from him that would suggest that he would study the issues and be prepared to balk at GOP leadership if he thought it was in the best interest of his district. I have not heard about any pledges to conduct dozens of town hall meetings to hear out his constituents — even those who may disagree with him.

    What I see is, for lack of a better term, a conservative demagogue who is espousing a single, narrow point of view and telling all who might disagree to take a hike.

    We’ve had that guy before. We don’t need another one.

  4. Southside Virginia voters have been making bad bets on leadership since at least 1850 – and the results are evident. Now as they watch their jobs head to Asia, and their children migrate away, Southsiders find themselves in the throes of a new Massive Resistance to an African American President with a foreign name, and a woman in a leadership position. You don’t need statistics to define what’s going on, just a feel for irony and the certainty that some cultures are doomed to making the same mistake over and over again.

  5. There have been plenty of times that Sen. Hurt has worked to resolve issues that could otherwise have become partisan, “brochure” votes. I can say the same for Sen. Whipple. I cannot say the same for Speaker Pelosi, and can attest to the opposite. I haven’t worked with Rep. Periello.

    My point is, Robert and Mary Margaret start from very different places but they are thinkers who can find ways to resolve disputes without abandoning principles. No doubt, Rep. Periello is suffering from his association with the Speaker, but that is not limited to Southside VA. It is happening in New Jersey (!) and the Midwest. All due respect to Bubby, who is a savant in many ways, Pelosi is the noose, and is doesn’t matter the gender.

  6. U-hoo – Mark Warner has a different take on Robert Hurt, and sixteen other members of the Va House GOP.

  7. Whipple and Hurt are in the hampster league. Pelosi plays in the big league. No comparison. Whatever Bob Hurt’s accomplishments, they pale in comparison to backstopping the American economy, facing down monopoly health insurers, or standing up for the middle-class. Save your talk of “abandoned principles”, it rings hollow.

  8. During the past two months my ears have been assaulted by the expected multitude of pre-election ads on both radio and TV. During this time, I couldn’t help but notice that the intent & character of Hurt’s and Periello’s ads are at polar opposites. Sen. Hurt does nothing but lob insults and derogatory comments directed at Cong. Periello and his voting record. On the other hand, Periello’s ads are focused on issues, what he had accomplished so far, and what challenges still need to be addressed. If I had to depend on these ads for my information about the candidates, I would know zip about how Hurt has addressed, and plans to address, any issues whatsoever. Add to that Hurt’s refusal to hold any town meetings, well…I’m thinking that’s all he wants me to know. Just saying.

  9. “Sen. Hurt does nothing but lob insults and derogatory comments directed at Cong. Periello and his voting record. On the other hand, Periello’s ads are focused on issues, what he had accomplished so far”

    Oh good grief. What a load of horse shit. But it’s nice that they let you out of the Perriello campaign office for long enough to post it.

    The last FOUR Perriello ads I’ve seen were nothing but hard core attack ads on Hurt (a series of “reg’lar folks” talking about how much they loathe Senator Hurt). Both candidates are using such ads. BFD.

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