The Beat: Leader of the pack

In the media fallout after Tuesday's elections, Western North Carolina's victorious Democratic incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler has been making national headlines by declaring his plans to vie with Nancy Pelosi for the post of House minority leader.

"If there's not a viable alternative [to Pelosi] — like I said all along — I can go recruit moderate members to run in swing districts,"  Shuler said in an interview that was reported by The Huffington Post and other outlets. "In that situation, I could do it better than she could, and that's what it's going to take. It's going to take moderate candidates to win back those seats."

The next day, the Los Angeles Times declared, "Nancy Pelosi to Run for House Minority Leader," seemingly giving Shuler little choice but to honor his word and take her on.

Several conservative Democrats – including fellow Blue Dog Coalition leader Jim Matheson, have already said they won't support her bid – although Republicans relished the prospect of being able to use her as a foil again in the 2012 election cycle.

"Given that there are now 60-plus defeated Democrat House members urgently seeking jobs due to Nancy Pelosi's failed leadership, we welcome her decision to run for House minority leader, based on her proven ability to create jobs for Republican lawmakers," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Whether Shuler defeats her or not, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that "Blue Dog Democrats' Rout May Not Hurt Rep. Heath Shuler."

Despite the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition's loss of at least 28 of its 54 members, Chris Cooper, director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University, told the daily paper that it's not all bad news for the remaining moderates.

“He's probably in a better position than a lot of Democrats are, because he is a conservative Democrat and made no bones about it,” Cooper said. “He could come out smelling pretty nice, because he's the kind of Democrat who could maintain some power, even in the minority party.” 

According to Politico's "Blue Dog Wipeout: Half of Caucus Gone," the remaining members of the caucus "see incoming Speaker John Boehner's desire to attract Democratic votes for legislation — both for the political leverage afforded by bipartisanship and to let Republican "no" voters off the hook — as an opportunity to be part of the debate and to show distance from Democratic orthodoxy."

Republican House party

Back in the North Carolina State House, the Associated Press reported that "NC GOP Gets a Historic Chance with Redistricting."

According to the article, "The Republican sweep at the N.C. General Assembly means more than just control of the House and Senate for the next two years after being out of power almost continuously for more than a century.

"The GOP can expand its influence in 2011 because it will get to redraw district boundaries for the Legislature and the state's congressional seats, based on this year's census data," the article explained. "Their legislative leaders will get every opportunity to pen districts that would protect the majority through 2020."

It's unclear at this point how redistricting could affect Buncombe, which will be represented in the new session by incumbent Democrats Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever, as well as newly elected Republican Tim Moffitt

Let it snow

In a rare occurrence of a very different nature, the mountains of Western North Carolina saw an early November snowfall last week.

WLOS reported in "Cataloochee Area Gets Coating of Snow" that the higher elevations of Haywood County received about 4 inches. Combined with the unseasonably cold weather that allowed them to make artificial snow, the Cataloochee Ski Area was able to open for the season Nov. 6, one of the earliest opening dates in its history. Sugar Mountain Ski Resort in Banner Elk, N.C. also opened that day, three weeks earlier than last year and just shy of Sugar’s earliest recorded opening (Nov. 5, back in 1976).

Winter-weather haters still reeling from last year's record snow and cold should have no fear this year, according to "RaysWeather.Com Winter 2010-11 Fearless Forecast." This winter season, the Web outlet predicted that Asheville will experience less snow and higher-than-normal temperatures.

— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at jfrankel@mountainx.com.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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