Rep. LaVar Christensen and Rep. Dan McCay are squaring off to fill a vacant seat in the Utah Senate. These two have served a long time together in the Utah House–long enough to cast a lot of opposing votes. So let’s compare their voting records.
Let’s start with some statistics summarizing each legislator’s service, drawn from my statistical tables about the Utah Legislature. The statistics below include only service from 2011 on. For statistics where I don’t have a long term average handy, I have included the 2018 value.
|General Sessions in House||2003-07, 2011-18||2012-18|
|Senate bills floor sponsored||1.1/year||10.1/year|
|Missed votes||5.4% of 5,441||8.6% of 4,790|
|Nay votes||4.5% of 5,441||14.1% of 4,790|
|Party support||97.7% in 2018||86.1% in 2018|
|Party support on party-line votes||84.1% in 2018||94.0% in 2018|
Christensen and McCay sponsor and pass a similar number of their own bills, but there is a huge gap on floor sponsorship of Senators’ bills. Senators carefully choose Representatives to carry their bills through the House, so the difference in floor sponsorship rates suggest different reputations among Senators. In fact, this difference in floor sponsorship strikes me as the most telling difference in this table; one of these legislators has a track record over the past several sessions of working closely across chambers, and the other does not.
For missed votes, the chamber average each year is generally around 5-7%. Christensen tends to fall right within this average, with McCay slightly above it, but neither is particularly far from the average.
McCay is famous for his “nay” voting record, and particularly for voting “nay” on commemorative (i.e. non-policy) resolutions. He casts “nay” votes at more than triple the rate Christensen does.
Party support scores measure how often these legislators vote with the majority of their own party. In 2018, Rep. Christensen voted with the majority of House Republicans 97.7% of the time, versus 86.1% for Rep. McCay. The more telling measure, however, is how often these legislators vote with their party when there is a “party-line” vote–that is, a vote wherein a majority of Republicans votes opposite a majority of Democrats. On party-line votes the scores flip, with Christensen voting with his party 84.1% of the time versus McCay’s 94.0%.
Over the past 7 General Sessions, Christensen and McCay have participated together in 4,136 votes, disagreeing 627 times (15%). (I exclude votes where one or both was absent.) That means 85% of the time it wouldn’t matter whether Christensen or McCay is the one casting a vote–you would get the same result either way.
If we narrow it to close votes–that is, where there were no more than 55 of 75 Representatives on the same side of the vote–then Christensen and McCay have participated in 555 votes, disagreeing on a phenomenal 272 of them (49%). That’s enough to make it hard to tell from the record whether they even belong to the same party.
Of these 272 disagreements on close votes, 3 were 38-37 decisions. That is, 3 were decided by a single vote, and either Christensen or McCay could have changed the outcome by switching his vote.
These 3 pivotal votes appear at the top of the table below, which lists every time Christensen and McCay cast opposing votes when the overall “ayes” vs “nays” margin was 9 or less. (The table is sorted so that votes with the closest “ayes” vs “nays” margins appear at the top.)
Opposing votes matter more on close votes than on lopsided ones, so I’ll cut the table off there. If you really want to see comparisons where the overall margin was greater than 9, email me I guess.