Rep. Heath Shuler concluded his bid for speaker of the House, collecting 10 votes from his Democratic colleagues compared to 173 for Rep. Nancy Pelosi — and he garnered lots of national media attention in the process. Rep. John Boehner received unanimous support from Republicans, winning the position with 241 votes.
In a statement, Shuler sought to portray his support as a push for a more "moderate and consensus-building course" for House Democrats. According to Politico, the roll call resulted in the most votes against a party's own speaker candidate in nearly 90 years.
By throwing his hat in the ring, Shuler also fulfilled a campaign pledge to vote for himself if Pelosi chose to run again. Shuler had acknowledged that the effort was largely symbolic, and that he had no real chance of winning. He also came up short in a November attempt to unseat Pelosi as House Minority Leader, losing the closed-door party vote 150-43.
But media coverage of the moves has boosted the three-term congressman's national visibility and hints, perhaps, at higher aspirations. In the wake of last year's victory over Republican challenger Jeff Miller, Shuler opted to keep his Asheville campaign headquarters in permanent operation. He also recently commissioned a political action committee to raise his profile nationwide.
Down but not out?
In other lingering election news, Xpress broke the story online that "Republican Leader Chad Nesbitt Bows Out of Second County Chairmanship Race."
The conservative activist generated controversy during last year's campaign season, with his self-described "guerrilla-marketing campaign," including a 9/11 fundraiser that drew scrutiny by the State Board of Elections and a telethon that failed to raise any money. He also sought to portray local Democratic candidates as socialists and blamed Republican losses on "some dumb people in Buncombe — some of the dumbest people on the planet."
Although Nesbitt notified the Buncombe Republican Party that he doesn't intend to seek a second term as chair, he told Xpress that he's considering running for some other office. "I do have plans to run, but it's not something I want to announce right now," he said.
The first week of the new year found many Western North Carolina residents continuing the struggle to stay warm.
Last month marked Asheville's second-coldest December on record. And the "Cold December Means Higher Heating Costs for Asheville-Area Residents," the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
Progress Energy saw demand exceed its projections for the month by 18 percent, according to the article. And both PSNC Energy and Duke Energy set usage records for natural gas. That could translate into bills that are 30 percent higher than normal, Duke spokesperson Betsy Conway told the paper.
Don't look for relief anytime soon: As this issue went to press, Ray's Weather Center was predicting “a prolonged onslaught of wintry weather.”
That's good news for ski areas and winter sports enthusiasts, however, as "Wolf Ridge Gears Up For A Record Year," reported Madison County’s News-Record & Sentinel. According to co-owner Rick Bussey, the great early season conditions have drawn big crowds to the closest ski area to Asheville.
"Business has been excellent so far," he said, adding that he’s hoping this winter could top last year's 130 inches of snow and record attendance. In the past, the resort has averaged about 35,000 visitors a year. Bussey hopes to bump that up to more than 150,000 in the coming years, he explained.
Skiing and snowboarding are big business in Western North Carolina: The industry pumped an estimated $146 million into the economy last year.