Saturday, July 16, 2005

First and long for Shuler

This is cross-posted from Ashvegas, where you can keep up with all things Ashvegas. Remember where you heard it first.

Rumors are running hot and heavy that Heath Shuler will make it official next week and declare his candidacy as a Democrat running to unseat congressman-for-life U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor.

Forget the rumors. He's running. Here's what it means.

Democrats are drooling at the prospects of Shuler, a smooth, well-spoken guy with street cred (he knows all the right people), star power (he was a football star at the University of Tennessee, for goodness sakes) and enough mountain charm to fill a tobacco barn. Shuler's got some of that NFL money stashed, too, so he's got resources.

All this means a lot, as Democrats try yet again to unseat Taylor, one of a dozen "cardinals" in the U.S. House who has a choice seat on the Appropriations Committee and stands as one of the richest men in congress.

When Taylor first started running for the 11th Congressional District seat he now holds, this mountain district that is the western tip of N.C. was notorious as a district of flip-flopping voters. It passed back and forth between Dems and Repubs in the 1980s before Taylor finally secured it. He's fended off all comers ever since.

The past couple of contests have seen the kudzu that is campaign cash, a weed that chokes our political system. I think it was four years ago that spending on the race reached an all-time high, with Sam Neil and Taylor each spending more than $1 million each, plus another couple of million tossed in by special interest groups.

This trend will continue with the Shuler-Taylor matchup. Each candidate will spend well more than $1 million each. Meanwhile, you can expect outside organizations, the MoveOn.orgs and such, to toss in plenty more.

Don't expect this race to be quite as nasty as the past couple of races, although Taylor and his machine knows how to throw the mud, as do his challengers. Shuler will be respectful, and probably will talk about not running against Taylor as much as running for change or something like that. Taylor will run on his experience, and on the pork he's been bringing home by the bucketloads.

Shuler's candidacy is also the culmination of another trend in politics - the local Republican and Democratic parties becoming indistinguishable. The district has gone strongly conservative, despite the influx of progressive Democrats moving into Asheville. The district Dems, unable to come up with viable candidates, finally have the perfect one - a former Republican running as a Democrat. Shuler stumped for Republican candidates in Tennessee and I wouldn't doubt that he was a registered Republican there in Knoxville.
So, it should be an interesting race.

Can Shuler win? The answer is - not in 2006.


Screwy Hoolie said...

I passed this along at Scrutiny Hooligans. Thanks, Ash.

Screwy Hoolie said...

Shuler will win. Taylor's ethical and legal problems are going to get into the ethics committee in the House. Shuler's Swain county celebrity will translate into votes across the district, and the DNC is going to pour money into the defeat of Clearcut Taylor.

Lance McCord said...

Hey, you're in the 11th District. Why don't you ask Taylor for a resonse to Shuler's announcement? I've had pretty good luck getting interesting responses from local politicians.