Heath Shuler reportedly considering University of Tennessee job
North Carolina Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler is reportedly considering taking a job as athletic director at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the place where he became a nationally-recognized quarterback before a largely unsuccessful run helming the Washington Redskins’ offense.
“Shuler is in play,” wrote radio host Tony Basilio on his blog. “Yes he did call [former Tennessee head football coaches] Phillip Fulmer and Johnny Majors to get their thoughts on this potential opportunity but he hasn’t been offered the job. In fact, Tennessee hasn’t ‘offered’ the job to anybody as of yet.”
In a statement, Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalan did not explicitly deny the report, but did say that the congressman is focused on the next election.
“Congressman Shuler is focused on the very serious challenges facing our nation, including job creation and balancing our budget,” Whalan said. “He is currently and actively preparing for his next re-election campaign in 2012 and looks forward to continuing to fight for the working families of Western North Carolina in the years ahead.”
Shuler, now on his third term, considered retiring last cycle. He stayed and kept his Republican-leaning seat in 2010 by a comfortable nine-point victory margin. He also challenged Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her bid to become House minority leader after losing the majority in the 2010 elections. But redistricting could endanger him in 2012. Republicans control the decennial line-drawing process for the first time in two centuries, and Shuler is one of many potential targets.
Shuler, who raised $140,000 in the first quarter of 2011, also faces a primary challenge from Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell.
If Shuler were to retire, it would further decimate the conservative Blue Dog Caucus. The group’s ranks were heavily thinned in the 2010 elections, with 22 members losing their seats and six more leaving the House.
This cycle, their numbers are dwindling even further. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) resigned. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is retiring Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is running for Senate. Rep. Jim Matheson is considering running for Senate or governor.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) explicitly called the Blue Dogs out in a Politico editorial today, writing: “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”
Shuler is also not the only Blue Dog in danger of a redistricting-engineered demise. Most of these conservative Democrats are already in marginal districts, so they make easy targets in states where Republicans control the process. Shuler’s fellow North Carolinian Mike McIntyreis at risk as are Georgia’s John Barrow and Sanford Bishop, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire and Tennessee’s Jim Cooper.
Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa is also more vulnerable after the state’s independent redistricting process, and he already has a challenger in fellow Rep. Tom Latham (R).
More on PostPolitics.com