U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers has taken over as North Carolina’s most conservative House member, according to the National Journal’s annual analysis of congressional votes.
The freshman Republican from Dunn, who ran as a tea party favorite, was ranked 15 among House conservatives. She beat out U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Cherryville Republican and Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican on the conservative ranking. McHenry was ranked 20; Foxx, 62.
U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, was named the most liberal House member of the North Carolina delegation followed by U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat. Watt was ranked 50th on the liberal rankings. Price was ranked 112th.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, was ranked the seventh most conservative Senator. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, was ranked the 32nd most liberal Senator.
The ratings are based on 97 Senate votes and 105 House votes during 2011. The analysis reflects how polarized Congress is today.
"For the second year in a row but only the third time in the 30 years that National Journal has published these ratings, no Senate Democrat compiled a voting record to the right of any Senate Republican, and no Republican came down on the left of any Senate Democrat,” the magazine reports. Only six House Republicans, including Rep. Walter Jones, a Farmville Republican, compiled a more “liberal” voting record than the most conservative Democrat, U.S. Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
Experts such as Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer said the rankings were no surprise.
“With Renee, she came from a Tea Party background,” Bitzer said. “With those folks it is a very conservative platform. Mel, on the other hand, is so liberal because of the district.” Nearly 60 percent of Watt’s district is Democrat. The majority of them are African American, who statistically vote along Democratic party lines. Watt said that the terms conservative and liberal were overused in political vernacular and meant little to him or average citizens.
“I cast one vote at a time,” he said. “I don’t look at whether its conservative or liberal.”
Ellmers said the scores reflect her commitment.
“Throughout my first year in office, I have listened closely to the needs and concerns of those who sent me here and have not shifted on the principles and values that they hold dear - values that I share,” she said.