In an outcome that he predicted himself, Western North Carolina Congressman Heath Shuler lost his Nov. 17 bid against Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats. The incumbent representative who recently won his third term said that he took heart in garnering 43 votes compared to the 150 votes for Pelosi.
“To be able to get that many votes, I mean that’s a lot better than we expected,” he said in a brief news conference outside the capital. “We only have 20 something Blue Dogs; to exceed that with 43, that’s pretty good.”
In a separate statement, Shuler explained that he saw his attempt to unseat Pelosi as a symbolic effort to represent the interests of moderates throughout the country.
“It was never about winning; it was about giving the moderates a voice in this caucus. We are strong because we are a big-tent party, not in spite of it,” he said. “Today we proved that we will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the next Congress, and I am proud to be a leader in that effort.”
Republican leaders saw the effort differently, however, with the North Carolina GOP releasing a statement that asserted that Shuler’s run was “a sad sideshow with WNC as the punchline.”
The congressman first publicly brought up the idea of challenging Pelosi during an Aug. 26 luncheon sponsored by the Council of Independent Business Owners. He mentioned his interest in the position several times throughout the campaign, and set off a national media frenzy in the days leading up to yesterday’s vote. Shuler was the only Democrat to take on Pelosi, a powerful leader who was demoted from Speaker of the House after Republicans won enough seats to take over the Congress.
It’s unclear how Shuler’s public challenge of his own party’s leadership will effect his position within the caucus. He was recently promoted to lead the Blue Dog coalition of moderate Democrats after it was devastated on Nov. 2, dropping from 54 to 26 members.
Here’s a video of Shuler’s remarks after the Minority Leader vote (via Politico):