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Rep. Walorski touts bipartisanship in re-election bid; Bock, her challenger, says the claims mask her 'real record'

Walorski cites her role in the bipartisan VA reform measure while Bock points to her role in the government shutdown last year.

Posted on Aug. 27, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.

Heading to the heart of election season, the buzzword in U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s bid for re-election to a second term is “bipartisan,” echoing her 2012 campaign.

The word figures in two of her television ads, while the third ad notes she bucked the Republican party, her party, in voting for the Violence Against Women Act, reauthorized by lawmakers last year. The measure passed the House 286-138, with 87 GOPers, including Walorski voting yes, and 138 more voting no.

Conservative, bipartisan?
Here’s how wonks and analysts rate U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a GOPer, compared to other lawmakers in Washington, D.C.:
  • According to a Washington Post analysis, she’s voted with her Republican counterparts 97 percent of the time. The average among the 237 Republicans scrutinized was 93.9 percent.
  • In a National Journal review of the votes lawmakers cast in 2013, Walorski was ranked the 145th most conservative lawmaker. She was less conservative than 144 other House Republicans and more conservative than 86 others.
  • Five other Indiana Republican serving in the House were rated as more conservative than Walorski in the National Journal analysis. The only Indiana GOPer less conservative was Todd Young, No. 147 on the list.
  • In an evaluation earlier this year by the conservative Club for Growth, Walorski received a 62 percent conservative rating, well below the most conservative. That put her at 157th place among 234 GOPers and seventh among Indiana’s seven GOPers in the U.S. House.
  • The American Conservative Union gave Walorski a 68 percent conservative rating earlier this year, below the 80 percent level required to get the ACU conservative award. She ranked seventh among Indiana’s seven GOPers and was the only one to score under 80 percent.
Last year, Curt Nisly, current GOP hopeful for the District 22 seat in the Indiana House, mulled vying against Walorski in the 2014 Republican primary for her seat, concerned she was more in line with GOP moderates. He later opted against it, his opposition tempered by her vote, in the minority, against the measure that ultimately ended the federal government shutdown last October.

“Jackie Walorski stood up to her own party and supported this measure because it provides more protections for victims and it makes women safer,” a victims’ advocate says in the ad.

By the calculations of varied political watchers, Walorski ranges from reliably Republican in her voting to not-quite-as-conservative as her Republican counterparts in the House.

By several measures, she’s among the least conservative of Indiana’s GOP delegation to the U.S. House (see sidebar)

Stats and expert analyses aside, not everyone is buying Walorski’s talk. Joe Bock, the Democrat challenging Walorski for the 2nd District U.S. House post, suggests the Republican is in step with more conservative, tea party GOPers, not middle-of-the-road lawmakers, similar to charges levied by her Democratic foe in the 2012 campaign.

"Congresswoman Walorski has voted her party line 97 percent of the time she's been in Congress,” Bock said in response to an Elkhart Truth query. “The greatest ad campaign in the country won't be able to cover up her real record.”

More specifically, Bock has pointed to last year’s government shutdown in charging that the bipartisan label doesn’t fit. The Oct. 1-16 shutdown — fodder for broader charges that Congress is unable to get beyond partisan congressional gridlock — was spurred by the failed push by some GOP House members, including Walorski, to defund or stall implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“Congresswoman Walorski voted to shut down our government, costing our economy $24 billion,” charged Bock, a professor at the University of Notre Dame.

He’s also noted her support for the “highly partisan” budget plans put forth by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

In 2012, Walorski also sounded a message of bipartisanship, mindful, perhaps, of 2nd District voters’ tendency to flip-flop between Democratic and Republican reps. She inspired the skepticism of her Democratic challenger that year, Brendan Mullen, who drew from comments the Republican made during her 2010 bid for the post.

Walorski, who more overtly courted tea party conservatives in 2010, lost to moderate Democrat Joe Donnelly that year but narrowly beat Mullen in the 2012 campaign.

‘GETTING BIPARTISAN RESULTS’

Walorski’s bipartisan message heading to the Nov. 4 vote isn’t limited to her TV ads. She has also used the word in two recent political mailings.

"Working in a bipartisan way...,” reads one flier. “Rep. Jackie Walorski is getting bipartisan results for Hoosier families,” reads another.

In an interview earlier this month, she defended her word choice.

Naysayers are “going to say what they want to say,” she said at a stop at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health clinic in Goshen. “But my focus is working on behalf of this district.”

She pointed to her efforts to spur U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reform legislation, meant to improve health care access for military veterans at VA facilities. The legislation ultimately passed with bipartisan backing and Walorski was invited to take part in the ceremony earlier this month when President Obama signed it into law.

“It’s not been partisan,” she said of deliberations leading to Obama’s signature. “And one of the reasons we’re sitting today with VA directors and having a brand new bill signed with funding in it is because politics never played a role...”

Walorski has also pointed to legislation she authored to fight sexual assaults in the military. The House measure passed unanimously, and her language was later inserted into the 2014 military spending bill.

"I’ve been very clear ever since I went there,” Walorski said, citing the will of constituents as her guiding force. “I was going to vote this district, and have voted and stood up for the issues of our district.”

‘END PARTISAN GAMES’

Still, at least one old comment, more reminiscent of the conservative tea party movement, dogs her.

In 2010, Walorski expressed support for privatizing the Social Security system, touted by some conservatives. Later, in 2012, she said she was committed to protecting the Social Security system, in response to criticism from Mullen about the 2010 comment, but it hasn’t stopped Bock.

“Congresswoman Walorski’s idea to gamble Social Security on the stock market is dangerous, and our senior citizens deserve better,” he said in an Aug. 14 press release. “Social Security successfully keeps our senior citizens out of poverty during old age.”

Bock also took her to task for her April vote in favor of the Ryan budget plan, which he maintains benefits the wealthy. Her first TV ad, though, really irked him.

"She promised to work across party lines to get things done,” a Walorski supporter says in the spot. “And Jackie Walorski delivered,” another continues.

Bock, though, hearkened to what he said were Walorski’s tea party loyalties, zeroing in on the government shutdown. 

“Congresswoman Walorski does not represent our Hoosier values of pragmatism and fairness in Washington, D.C.,” Bock said. “I am running to end partisan games, and bring real problem-solving skills to Congress."

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.


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