Shuler bucks his party — again

Rep. Heath Shuler’s vote against repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is the latest in a line of hot-button issues where he’s split with the Democratic Party. If the results of the recent primary challenge is any indication, that approach is costing him support in his party.

Shuler joined 25 other Democrats and all but five Republicans in voting against the bill, which would end the 17-year ban on lesbian and gay individuals serving openly in the military. In a statement, Shuler claimed that he cast the vote because the Pentagon hasn’t yet finished a study on changing the policy (although, if passed, the bill would take effect after the study is complete).

The last time Shuler voted against a major Democratic initiative was when he joined Republican representatives in opposing health-care-reform legislation. That legislation, like the repeal bill, passed the House of Representatives.

Both votes have attracted ire from left-of-center members of his party. While Shuler won the May 4 Democratic primary with 61 percent of the vote, his opponent, Aixa Wilson, was an unknown with no war chest and no campaign machine. It should be noted that in that vote, Shuler narrowly lost Buncombe County. For an entrenched incumbent, this is an extremely weak showing.

So I’ll have to revise my previous assessment. After the health-care vote, based on the conservative-leaning nature of the overall district (though not Buncombe) and Wilson’s relatively weak position, I believed Shuler’s vote was unlikely to harm him much politically. Now, based on Shuler’s primary showing, it’s clear his support has significantly weakened among Democrats and a stronger candidate with more resources would have made the primary a serious fight.

Odds are, most disgruntled Democrats won’t bolt for the Republican candidate, Hendersonville businessman Jeff Miller. But turnout matters in what’s likely to be a close election year. Those same Democrats may donate less or simply sit this round out.

Of course, Miller has his own possible issues. He emerged victorious from a six-way battle, but narrowly avoided a run-off. So far the Tea Party faction that largely backed his main opponent, Dan Eichenbaum, seems lukewarm to his campaign. At the same time, if Miller throws red meat to the Tea Party, he could lead liberal Dems (reluctantly) back to Shuler.

It’s going to be an interesting election.


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20 thoughts on “Shuler bucks his party — again

  1. Woolburr

    While I don’t necessarily support Representative Schuler’s vote on this particular issue, it is important to remember one very critical thing. He was not elected to serve the Democratic party, he was elected to serve his constituents in Buncombe County and WNC. Too bad a few more legislators don’t have the spine to vote the will of the people, not the will of the dollar and the good ole boy network.

  2. travelah

    Do you really believe the left of center aspects of the Democrat Party will drive the results of the 11th district?

  3. Ken Hanke

    David, I believe you got the first letter of the second word of the title wrong by a letter.

  4. If Democrats really wanted rid of Shuler, they’d run a serious candidate instead of just whining.

    They realize that he’s the best they’re likely to get given the demographics of this district.

  5. R.Bernier opinions

    The Progressives have no choice they will have to vote for Shuler in 2010.


    Hanke, cant hide them eagle eyes!!

  6. pff

    [b]He was not elected to serve the Democratic party, he was elected to serve his constituents in Buncombe County and WNC. Too bad a few more legislators don’t have the spine to vote the will of the people, not the will of the dollar and the good ole boy network. [/b]

    And what evidence do you have to support this theory that his vote represents the majority in Buncombe and WNC?

    And what makes you think that the people who voted for him actually wanted him to oppose his chosen party at nearly every step? Wouldn’t his competitor have won if that was the case?

  7. LOKEL

    I am one of his constituents – and I will NOT be voting for him in the election … I guess I will be voting republican.

  8. PREDICTION: Partisan Democrats, whether they like it or not, will re-elect Heath Shuler for another term. Shuler actually won his re-election bid on Primary day.

  9. Dionysis

    “…he was elected to serve his constituents in Buncombe County and WNC.”

    How does voting with the health insurance companies and the telecom companies (on the issue of net neutrality) serve his constituents?

  10. Voting against socialize health care and internet regulation serves to protect individual rights.

    Thank you, Heath Shuler.

  11. Dionysis

    “Voting against socialize health care and internet regulation serves to protect individual rights.”

    Thank you, Heath Shuler.

    Opposition to net neutrality helps to protect the telecom’s monopoly and shut out smaller companies, perpetuating the stranglehold they have. You seem to believe that ‘individual rights’ are the sole purview of corporations (and you no doubt kissed your autograph picture of Ayn Rand with that idiotic Supreme Court ruling regarding corporate financing of elections).

    As for your continual yaking about ‘socialism’, let’s see what real socialists actually think about health care reform:

    “Just to remind the right wing what actual socialists — as opposed to the people they’re always falsely accusing of being socialists — do and think, here’s what the Socialist Party USA thinks about the healthcare reform bill just passed Sunday night:

    “March 22, 2009- Co-chair of the Socialist Party USA, Billy Wharton, opposes the healthcare bill… Wharton’s opposition is based on the belief that this bill is not a reform. Instead, it is a corporate restructuring of the health insurance industry created to protect the profit margins of private insurance companies…

    …the mandates allow private insurers to use the coercive power of the state to enhance their private profits…

    “This is not a healthcare reform bill,” says Wharton, “It is instead a corporate restructuring of the American healthcare system designed to enhance the profits of private health insurance companies disguised with the language of reform.”

    Now that a real socialist has weighed in on the matter, the reality of this entrenchment of the corporatization of health care should prompt you to have a celebration.

  12. LOKEL

    I guess Heath has a problem with homosexuality …. even though he let many grown men touch his ass (sometimes on national TV) during his “career” in the NFL …. I suppose it never occurred to him that some of his teammates were gay.

  13. SourD

    I’d rather have a Reflublican in office than a Demo that votes like one. I can’t think of one issue he has voted FOR that represents any liberal position I hold. I’ll take a Republcrat over a Demo that can’t even give me lip service.

  14. cwaster

    Vote him out. I certainly won’t vote for him again, Democrat or no.

  15. nuvue

    I also will NOT cast my vote for Shuler. He has let me down. Now I will start to learn more about Miller or leave that vote blank.

  16. Roger

    A sad sad vote. This would not have cost him his reelection bid. Sad.

  17. Roger

    I will save my campaign dollars for candidates with views I agree with.

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