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Voters looking to discover how their lawmakers rank in terms of Conservatism now have new numbers to display voting patterns.

Gannett's Washington Bureau published an article Monday explaining the trends behind Tennessee's U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Senators.

The data came from two Washington public policy publications, CQ Roll Call and the National Journal. Inside Tennessee panelist Susan Richardson Williams says it's common to see rankings published by third party groups.

"They're in the business of ranking political leaders." she said. "It's a lot about politics."

For example, politicians will use the rankings to boost themselves or to criticize opponents during election season.

"If you are ranked 95 percent by conservatives and you live in a conservative district or state, then you obviously are going to tell everybody about your ranking. If you're running against one of those folks who didn't get a conservative ranking and you want to claim 'I'm the conservative here,' then you can use it that way," she said.

Representative Scott DesJarlais, (R) District 8, earned the top spot for most conservative Tennessee Congressmen, voting conservative 94.2 percent of the time.

Several other lawmakers voted conservative at least 80 percent of the time, including:

  • Rep. Diane Black, (R) 6th District : 90.7 percent
  • Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, (R) 3rd District: 89.7 percent
  • Rep. Stephen Fincher, (R) 8th District: 86 percent
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R) 7th District: 84.7 percent

The numbers for Rep. Jimmy Duncan, (R) 2nd District, were much lower at 63.5 percent.

"It depends on what you're using to rank these people," Williams said.

"If you're talking about the war in Afghanistan, or Iran, or Iran -- Jimmy voted against that. So, is that conservative? But if you're talking about fiscal issues, there's nobody more conservative than he is."

Rep. Duncan's office echoed that sentiment, adding the congressman is very proud of his fiscally conservative voting record.

The studies also followed senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, noting both appeared to buck party trends far more often than members of Congress.

The National Journal states Sen. Alexander votes conservative 64.5 percent of the time, and Sen. Corker -- 64.8 percent. Those scores earned Sen. Corker the ranking of 38th most conservative in the Senate, and Sen. Alexander tied for 40th.

Both also made a CQ Roll Call list of senators most likely to vote against their party.

The offices of Senator Alexander and Senator Corker stressed the same point made by Williams, saying the rankings depend on which votes are examined. Below are the statements released from each office.

Sen. Alexander's office:

"This is the scorecard season in Washington, D.C. Former National Rifle Association chairman David Keene said that if he were making a scorecard for Lamar Alexander, he would start with the senator's 'A' rating from the NRA and his 100 percent ratings from National Right to Life and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Sen. Alexander has a consistently conservative voting record. The senator has created his own scorecard to give Tennesseans a better opportunity to assess his voting record. You can find it at alexander.senate.gov."

Sen. Corker's office:

"Depending on which votes you choose, you can make any number of claims. For instance, this publication showing Sen. Corker had a high party unity score also alleges we voted with the administration more than many Republicans-- which is why we don't put much stock in these arbitrary rankings by third parties."

"The true test of whether or not you are liked by your constituency is at the polls on election day," Williams said. "If you're continuously being reelected in a conservative state or a moderate state or a liberal state, then that's really the best test - not one of these third party polls and opinions."

Statement from Rep. Jimmy Duncan's office:

"Many different publications release these types of scorecards, but we always look carefully at who is defining conservative. Some of these reports list votes on massive foreign aide, wars, foreign interventions, and nation building as conservative votes, but Congressman Duncan believes these are the least conservative positions you can hold. Several years ago, Congressman Duncan was rated the most fiscally conservative in the 435-Member House by the National Taxpayers Union based on all spending votes. He has said many times that if other Members of Congress had voted the way he has over the years we would have very little debt if any and this country would be booming. With our Nation now more than $17 trillion in debt, he is very proud of his fiscally conservative voting record."

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