Irreplaceable Legislators? Rethinking Minority Representatives in the New Century


  • Data for replication purposes can be obtained by contacting the authors. We would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their feedback and assistance. We would also like to thank Jennifer Fitzgerald, Ken Meier, Jennifer Wolak, and the members of the MSU Jr. faculty workshop for reading earlier versions of this article and for providing valuable comments and ideas.

Eric Gonzalez Juenke is Assistant Professor of Political Science, 303 S. Kedzie Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823 ( Robert R. Preuhs is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Campus Box 43, P.O. Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217–3362 (


We use state legislator ideology estimates (standardized W-nominate values) to examine whether Latino and African American legislator ideological differences can be explained away by traditional constituency characteristics like partisanship and demographics. We find instead that both Black and Latino legislators are unique “types.” Our evidence supports the theoretical presumption that there is a minority dimension to legislative voting and that it is uniquely personified by minority officeholders. White, Black, Latino, Democrat, and Republican representatives are all examined for responsiveness to different partisan and racial/ethnic populations. The dataset includes all 50 state legislatures from the 1999–2000 legislative sessions, including information from the U.S. Census, NALEO, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Gerald Wright's Representation in the American Legislature Project, and CQ Press's Almanac of State Legislative Elections.