U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler took a calculated loss when he challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi for the position of House minority leader.
The payoff for losing? Shuler, the Democrat representing this region who is from Bryson City and now calls Waynesville home, emerged as an important national player in one of the biggest political games of them all. His voice and centrist position suddenly are important to the Democratic Party, which is battling internally to redefine itself following heavy midterm election losses.
“I can add and subtract,” Shuler said of the challenge to the soon-to-be former speaker of the House. “I knew we could not win. But it was so important that the leadership in the Democratic caucus should be made to realize why we lost so many seats.”
When the vote came last week, Shuler, as expected, lost big to Pelosi. But the Blue Dog Democrat garnered more than 20 percent of the votes. And he received a lot of airtime on national television and gobs of ink in prominent newspapers, coast to coast.
Shuler also was selected Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration — a top leadership position of the coalition. The Blue Dogs formed in 1995, ostensibly to represent the center of the House of Representatives and mirror mainstream American values. The current 54-member coalition will decrease almost by half, however, as a result of this month’s election.
Next week in The Smoky Mountain News, look for an in-depth profile of Shuler and his increasingly prominent national role.