Republicans to Taylor: Make up your mind

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Ever since Democrat Heath Shuler’s upset of incumbent Charles Taylor in the 2006 election, Republicans have been plotting their strategy to take back control of the 11th Congressional District. Taylor is the first choice to take back his former seat, but the clock is ticking and he has yet to announce whether he is running.

The Henderson County Republican Men’s Club went so far as to formally ask Taylor to declare. Last week, the only response the club had received was a two or three sentence letter stating that while Taylor appreciated their interest and concern, he wasn’t ready to make a decision.

“We respect Charles Taylor and the thoughtful consideration as to whether he wants to run again, and whatever his decision is, we will honor and be pleased with it,” an unfazed Stephen Duncan, chair of the 11th Congressional District Republican Party, said.

The question has been raised as to whether Taylor, 66, is hurting other possible candidates by waiting so long to declare. Duncan, though, doesn’t think that’s the case. In fact, he encourages anyone who wants to run to step forward and express their interest.

“I encourage them to go head and begin speaking out and making their positions known. If Charles decides to run, choose what you want to do then,” he said.

Western Carolina University professor Don Livingston said he’s heard that some of Taylor’s former supporters are trying to discourage him from making a bid and encouraging him to let someone new step forward. On the other hand, Haywood County Republican Club president Bill Barkley thinks if Taylor wasn’t running, he already would have stepped out of the way.

“The fact that he isn’t declaring now to me suggests that he is going to run. I think he’s building up a little suspense, and of course any candidate wants to know how much support he has,” Barkley said. He speculated a Labor Day announcement on Taylor’s decision is possible.

If Taylor doesn’t decide to run, plenty of other candidates will likely vie for the Republican nomination to challenge Shuler.

“My arm is not as long as the people who have been rumored, talked to, talked about, begged, pleaded and cajoled with,” said Duncan, who estimates there are currently about 8 to 10 serious candidates waiting to take Taylor’s place. Those who have already announced an interest in running include Highlands resident John Armor (who challenged Taylor in 2006), Sylva attorney Orville Coward Jr., Henderson, Polk and Transylvania Counties District Attorney Jeff Hunt, state Sen. Tom Apodaca, Buncombe County Commission Chairman Nathan Ramsey, and Asheville city councilman Carl Mumpower.

Whoever the candidate may be, Duncan says Republicans are prepared to throw their support behind them in full force.

“There’s going to be increased interest in the challenge to Shuler. There will be plenty of money, plenty of organization, and plenty of attention to do whatever needs to be done for whichever Republican candidate is our nominee.

“I’m looking forward to January of 2009 going to Washington and seeing my new Republican member of Congress be sworn in,” Duncan said.

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