Don't count U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski among the most conservative of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., despite criticism she has generated from some Democrats as being a partisan extremist.
In separate evaluations released this week by two conservative groups, the Club for Growth and the American Conservative Union, Walorski received ratings well below the most conservative in the U.S. House.
She received a 62 percent conservative rating for 2013 from the Club for Growth, tied with five others for 157th place among 234 GOPers evaluated. The American Conservative Union, or ACU, gave Walorski a 68 percent rating for 2013, below the 80 percent threshold to earn the ACU conservative award. Scoring at or above the 80 percent level were 122 Republicans while 111, including Walorski, scored lower marks.
"It is somewhat surprising," said Sean Savage, a political scientist at St. Mary's College in St. Joseph County.
By contrast, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, an unabashedly conservative Republican from Howe, generated a 91 percent rating from the Club for Growth and a 96 percent rating from the ACU. Walorski received the lowest ranking from each group among Indiana's seven GOP representatives in Washington, D.C., while Stutzman garnered the highest marks.
- Scroll down to see the ACU and Club for Growth rankings for Indiana's U.S. House members.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from southwest Michigan, received a 72 percent rating from the ACU and 64 percent from the Club for Growth.
Though Walorski trails the most conservative House members, her numbers still rank far, far higher than Democratic lawmakers. Indiana's two Democratic U.S. House members, U.S. Reps. Andre Carson and Pete Visclosky, received ratings of 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the ACU and 12 percent and 19 percent from the Club for Growth.
EXTREMIST OR AN INDEPENDENT?
Her political foes labeled Walorski a conservative extremist during the 2012 race for the 2nd District post, which covers north central Indiana, including Elkhart County. In fact, that was one of the most consistent messages from the Democratic side two years ago.
"Jackie Walorski is a tea party candidate who has a long record of partisan extremism,” the spokesman for her Democratic opponent that year, Brendan Mullen, said during the 2012 campaign. “Sending her to Congress will make a broken system worse.”
Is she extremist or not conservative enough?
Throughout the campaign, though, Walorski painted herself as an independent who would reach across the aisle to get things done. That's carried on as a lawmaker since winning the 2012 contest.
Indeed, it's gotten to the point that some Republicans have criticized Walorski for not being conservative enough. Last October, Curt Nisly — husband of Elkhart County Republican Party Chairwoman Mary Nisly — said he was considering a Republican challenge to Walorski in this year's GOP primary.
The lawmaker, Nisly lamented at the time, has voted with "the Republican establishment quite often." Walorski's vote last October with other conservative lawmakers against legislation to end the federal government shutdown tempered his opposition and Nisly ultimately opted not to challenge Walorski. The Goshen area man has since launched a campaign against an incumbent GOP member of the Indiana House.
In a statement, Walorski's chief of staff, Brendon DelToro, repeated what's become the Republican's mantra, that her aim first and foremost is to fix problems. "Jackie remains focused on working across the aisle to find common-sense solutions to our nation’s problems. Her priority continues to be representing the opinions and needs of 2nd District Hoosiers in Washington," DelToro said.
Savage, the political scientist, said the ACU and Club for Growth rankings may reflect the realization by Walorski that conservative House members from the area, like John Hiler and Chris Chocola, have sometimes stumbled against and lost to Democratic opponents in years past. "So I think she may be reading the handwriting on the wall. She may have to take some more moderate positions at least on some issues," Savage said.
THE RANKING METHODOLOGY
The 2013 ACU ratings of House members, released Thursday, Feb. 27, are based in part on 25 votes on everything from Superstorm Sandy relief and welfare reform to the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay and taxing carbon. The Club for Growth rankings, released Monday, are more focused on economic issues, taxes and government regulation.
Here's a look at how Indiana's delegation to the U.S. House stacked up in the ACU and Club for Growth ratings. The higher the number the better, in the eyes of the conservative groups:
Club for Growth
|Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd
|Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th
|Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th
|Rep. Todd Young, R-9th
|Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th
|Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th
|Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd
|Rep. Andre Carson, D-7th
|Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st