After denying speculation for months that he wouldn’t seek re-election to Congress, Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler (NC11) reversed course Feb. 1 and announced that he will retire from the office when his current term ends in January.
Last year, Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly drew most of Buncombe County’s Democratic voters out of his district, hurting his chances of winning a fourth term. And in recent weeks, a host of energetic GOP candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to try to take the seat. Shuler also faced a primary challenge within his own party from Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell. The new 11th District stretches from western Buncombe County to the western tip of the state.
Since taking office in 2006, Shuler has emerged as a leader of the “Blue Dog” coalition of conservative Democrats. In 2010, he lost a bid for House Minority Leader to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, rankling many in his own party. He’s served on the powerful House Budget Committee since 2011, where he advocated for big spending cuts.
Here’s the statement from Shuler in its entirety:
Rep. Shuler Statement on Retirement
Last week I spent a lot of time at home with my family discussing the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina. This time of reflection and prayer gave us the opportunity to talk about the best course of action for us as a family moving forward. It was during this time that I reached the decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
This was not an easy decision. However, I am confident that it is the right decision. It is a decision I have weighed heavily over the past few months. I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician. I am ready to refocus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife Nikol and two young children.
I have experienced no greater honor than serving the people of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District over the past five years. I am proud of the work that my office has done to give Western North Carolina a voice in Congress and make life better for the people who entrusted me with the privilege of representing them in Washington. I am also proud of the work we have accomplished with the Blue Dog Coalition to put our country on a sound fiscal path and promote civility and common-sense solutions amid the divisive, highly-partisan political climate in Washington.
Though my time in Congress will come to an end after this year, my work to move our state and country forward will not. Reducing our $15 trillion national debt and crafting bipartisan solutions to the many problems facing our nation remain my highest priorities. Leaving Congress will give me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on these initiatives without the constant demands of a re-election campaign.
I am grateful for the many close friendships I have made with my colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. I thank the people of Western North Carolina for placing their faith and confidence in me as their elected representative. I thank my colleagues and mentors in Washington who have helped me along the way. Most of all, I want to thank Nikol, Navy, Island, my entire family, friends, supporters, and staff, without whom my career in Congress would not have been possible. May God bless you all and continue to bless Western North Carolina.
From Cecil Bothwell (Video by Bobby Coggins for the Thunder Pig blog)
From the National Republican Congressional Committee:
“It comes as no surprise that Heath Shuler would rather abandon a difficult re-election bid than explain to North Carolina middle-class families why he supported Obama’s job-destroying agenda. In throwing in the towel, Shuler provides Republicans with an opportunity not only to pick up the seat, but to ensure that North Carolina families have a Representative that truly represents their values.” – NRCC Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek
From President Barack Obama:
During his five years in Congress, Heath Shuler worked to expand economic opportunity, strengthen our fiscal future, and promote much-needed civility in Washington. Michelle and I thank Heath for his dedicated service, and we wish him and his family the very best.