Republicans Suffer Recruitment Failure in NC-11

If the Republicans want to have any hope of retaking the House in 2008 they're going to need to recruit strong candidates to challenge potentially endangered Democratic members, particularly those who are only in their first term and particularly those who represent districts that tend to otherwise vote Republican. But in case after case the Republicans have failed to woo top candidates in the districts they need to.

Take North Carolina's 11th congressional district, which leans about 7 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections. Last fall, Democrat Heath Shuler defeated the ethically-challenged Republican Congressman Charles Taylor and at least theoretically would not be immune to a challenge from a strong Republican candidate. But as Mark Johnson reports for The Charlotte Observer, the GOP was met with a loud "no" from one of their top prospects in the district.

N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, the No. 2 Republican in the state Senate, announced Monday that he will not run for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a freshman Democrat whose district could make him one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress next year.

"My family, friends and supporters have been wonderful in pressing me to run," Apodaca said in a prepared statement. "As of now, I'm in a position to do more for Western North Carolina in Raleigh than I would be as part of Congress."

National leaders from the Republican Party had courted Apodaca for the campaign, given his Henderson County base and tenure as deputy Republican leader in the state Senate. At Monday's Apple Festival parade in Hendersonville, onlookers occasionally shouted "Congressman!" at him.

It looks like folks are afraid of Shuler -- and for good reason. It's not for nothing that Shuler won by 8 points in 2006. At the same time, Shuler is a freshman in a fairly Republican district, and in a vacuum Republican legislators like Apodaca would be chomping at the bit for an opportunity to run.

But this cycle is clearly not gearing up to one in which there is no wind blowing in either direction. While the political environment could change before election day, the fact is that at this key moment, when both parties are desperately fighting to find the right slate of candidates so that they can increase their share of seats in both chambers of Congress, the Democrats are tending to hear "yes" and the Republicans are tending to hear "no" -- a clear sign that, at least as far as Republican state legislators and county commissioners and businessmen and the like are concerned, there could be another bloodbath for the GOP in 2008.

Tags: Heath Shuler, House 2008, NC-11, North Carolina, Recruitment (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

from Western NC, work on the Hill

Shuler and his hill staff are fantastic. Hes a great fit for the environmentally consciuouss, socially moderate Appalachian folks. His office is also very responsive to local needs, and people - from across party lines - really really appreciate that.

Apodaca is an interesting guy. In my experience, he's a fairly moderate Republican (as NC Republicans go), which doesn't really fit NC-11, where the Republican base is WAAAAAAAAAAY to the right. NC-11, remember, is where that church used to be located that told members who voted for John Kerry to leave.
Remember?

During a May 2 deacons' meeting, its pastor Chan Chandler allegedly told any members who had supported John Kerry in the 2004 United States presidential election to leave. Nine members of the church, including at least one deacon, left the meeting at that point. Chandler then allegedly declared an impromptu business meeting, and a majority of the 20 church members present voted to expel those who left. Chandler had been vocal in earlier months that he considered voting for the Democratic Party tantamount to supporting homosexuality and abortion.

Shuler has been a real leader among rural folks and blue dogs on the environment in the House. Hes on the Safe Climate Act, he has been out front on stopping mountaintop removal coal-mining and has been a champion for the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 2169) and he is solidly against coal-to-liquids, which is great.

That said, theres a lot of talk about running Shuler against Richard Burr in 2010, or against Dole in 2012 if she retains her seat. The middle and eastern parts of the state are pretty Democratic, so if Heath can keep his base in the west, you're looking at a potentially unstoppable statewide candidate. I think he'd be a good fit for NC, and I look forward to seeing where his career takes him.

by faithfull 2007-09-05 01:06PM | 0 recs

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