Representative Heath Shuler just announced he will challenge Nancy Pelosi for Minority Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. One of the Blue Dogs to survive this month’s national drubbing of Democrats by voters, Shuler has a reputation for many conservative values that are reflective of the Western North Carolina population that he serves (Blue Ridge, Asheville) (http://shuler.house.gov/ts). He also speaks well and is blessed with good looks (never hurts in Hollywood or in politics) and holds an NFL pedigree of sorts. He was the Washington Redskin’s first round draft pick in 1994 – although he performed terribly, throwing five interceptions in one game alone. So you couldn’t call him an NFL star by any stretch. He did much better in his follow-up career of real estate.
I do have family in the Tar Heel State, but not in Shuler’s district, and have taken note when his name pops up in the national press from time to time. I take note in part because I was there at his election headquarters when Shuler first won his seat to the House back in November 2005. How odd? Yes, pure chance. I was in North Carolina on an assignment with a federal client of mine who hails from DC but went to college at Western Carolina University. We were staying one night at a prominent Asheville hotel and when we pulled up saw there were lights blazing, a too-full parking lot (grumble, grumble) and all kinds of well dressed people milling around. It was election night and it turns out this hotel was Shuler’s campaign base for the evening. When my client realized that he recognized the Shuler name from the Redskins connection he was immediately intrigued. So we spent some time milling around with the faithful, drinking their liquid refreshments and, well, essentially having our supper there since it was 8:00 PM or so and we didn’t feel like finding a sit-down restaurant. The man serves good food, I’ll say that much. I didn’t stay around long enough for Shuler’s victory speech that evening since I was beat from our travels. But my client did and got a kick out of the whole event.
Can Shuler slay the San Fran dragon? Odds are long I suspect, but it will provide some interesting drama. And I imagine this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Heath Shuler.