Look more closely at Shuler’s record

Regarding Randy Molton’s cartoon of March 4: Before progressives here in the 11th Congressional District spend a lot of energy fanning their indignation about Rep. Heath Shuler’s vote on the stimulus bill and turn their flames toward smoking him out of office or organizing a challenge to him with a more liberal candidate—or believe a moderate Republican might be a better choice—a quick review of his voting record is in order (all data from Congressional Quarterly).

While it is true that Shuler has gone off the ranch several times, he has regularly returned home. His record last year in the 110th Congress shows he generally supports the Democratic Party and doesn’t give Republican programs a lot of air.

In last year’s roll calls, he supported Bush-administration programs only 18 percent of the time. Steny Hoyer was only one point away from Shuler with 17 percent, and as the majority leader in the House, he’s not considered a pariah. In contrast, the lowest any Republican registered on this index was Wayne Gilcrest of Maryland, who scored 25 percent support for Bush bills. Above him were a scant half-dozen Republicans who scored in the 30s, but the rest clocked in at 40 percent or above.

On party votes (where half of one party votes in opposition to half of the other), Shuler stuck with the Democrats 83 percent of the time. Not as frequently as Rahm Emanuel or Barney Frank at 99 percent, to be sure, but a mirror image of another first-termer who, like Heath in 2006, upset a Republican incumbent in a mixed rural/urban district much like this one (Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, and a friend of Shuler’s), and who supported Democratic party positions 85 percent of the time.

No, Shuler is not as progressive as some here would like. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Cut him some slack. He beat Charles Taylor. He was re-elected last year. He made this district competitive again—a designation that puts it in the political spotlight meriting national attention it hasn’t enjoyed since Jamie Clark and Bill Hendon traded the seat back and forth years ago in the 1980s.

— George Peery

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