RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — From political staffer to elected member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson over the years has held many titles.
But now, can he legitimately add another one — the state champ in North Carolina’s Congressional delegation?
A bipartisan organization that measures the effectiveness of members of Congress recently gave Hudson the top score among the state’s delegation, and Hudson’s staff commemorated it with an announcement.
But is that really an accomplishment worth crowing about? And just what makes a Congressman effective, anyway?
THE CLAIM: A statement from Hudson’s office says he was named “the most effective member from North Carolina’s House Delegation during the 117th Congress.”
THE FACTS: It refers to the biennial report from the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a partnership of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University.
It’s an attempt to put a numerical score on how effective lawmakers in Washington are at advancing the items on their agendas through the legislative process and into law.
“For effective lawmaking, you have to start with something to turn into a law,” said Craig Volden, a professor of public policy and politics at Virginia and the center’s director.
“So we look at the bills that members sponsor and then we track how far they move through the lawmaking process,” he added.
To draw a parallel to sports, it might be compared to the old BCS formula from college football: Here, 15 measures factor into a lawmaker’s score.
Among them: How many bills are sponsored, are considered substantive, receive action in committee, pass the lawmaker’s chamber and become law.
The overall scores are graded on a curve so that the average score is 1.
Hudson did come away with a score of 1.241 — the highest score among the 13 North Carolinians from both parties in the 117th Congress and the 19th-best among the 222 Republicans.
And those metrics also put him at No. 1 among all GOP members of Congress when it comes to health policy.
Ordinarily, it’s not necessarily fair to compare Republicans to Democrats and vice versa because a lawmaker’s effectiveness can change based on whether he or she is in the majority or the minority.
But it’s significant that Hudson had the top score of the state’s members of Congress despite being in the minority party in the House during that term, Volden said.
“Outscoring all the majority party, that's actually a a reasonable way to think about what's going on there,” Volden said. “If it had been the flip side of a majority party member really touting how much more they accomplished, or even a committee chair, they have so many privileges. … But when somebody in the minority party does tremendously well, you know, there there is a case that they can make along those lines.”
The second-highest score belonged to Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat who graded out at 1.212. The lowest overall score among the state’s House delegation belongs to the state’s newest senator — Ted Budd, at 0.443. Last among the five Democrats was Rep. David Price, who had a score of 0.496 in his final term before retiring.
“That’s because a lot of the legislating he was doing was in his role as a member of the Appropriations Committee, writing entire bills to fund major national priorities, as well as securing lots of funding for local projects in North Carolina and in the 4th District,” said Asher Hildebrand, Price’s former chief of staff who is currently a professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
“Those are important things, but they're not things that are captured by this sort of narrow metric of how many bills are you introducing, and are those bills moving through the process?” Hildebrand added.
According to the center’s numbers, 19 of the 20 total bills Hudson sponsored were deemed to be substantive. Three of them passed the House and two became law.
There are no midseason rankings — the center only puts them together after a particular Congress is complete. That’s why new members like Reps. Valerie Foushee, Wiley Nickel and Chuck Edwards won’t show up in the rankings until 2025.
And there’s one more thing to keep in mind.
When the center issued its rankings from the 114th Congress in 2017, the North Carolina Republican with the lowest score was none other than Hudson.
“Now, we might interpret that to mean he's come a long way in his effectiveness,” Hildebrand said. “Or, we might interpret that to mean this type of measure should be taken with a grain of salt, because a lot depends on the individual Congress and those sort of contextual factors.”