U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler is not yet sworn into his second term, but some Democrats hope he sets his sights two years from now on a run for the Senate.
That election would pit Democratic nominee Shuler, a star quarterback at Swain County High School and the University of Tennessee, against U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who played defensive back at Wake Forest.
Shuler said he has not ruled out a run for Senate, but wants to focus now on Congress.
“First and foremost, I am going back to Washington and work on the economy,” Shuler said. “At this point in time we need to focus on the economy.”
Shuler won re-election last week with 62 percent of the vote over Republican Carl Mumpower, an Asheville city council member.
Shuler has established himself as the kind of middle-of-the-road Democrat who can win a statewide election. After he knocked off eight-term incumbent Charles Taylor in 2006, Shuler was approached about running against Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
“It was my first term, and we decided against it,” Shuler said in an interview Wednesday.
Shuler said he has no regrets about the decision despite the fact that Dole was defeated by state Sen. Kay Hagan last week.
“You can always play Monday morning quarterback,” he said.
Shuler acknowledged the talk about a Senate campaign and said he would “weigh options” in the future.
“I need time to breathe right now after the election,” Shuler said.
Facing a challenge
Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, said being talked about for a Senate seat probably doesn’t hurt.
“Any time a politician can be in line for a higher office, it is not a bad thing,” Knotts said. “It keeps their name in the press and is an honor to be considered.”
But a 2010 race against Burr would be a challenge. Shuler could not “ride on the coattails” of the presidential race, and in Burr he would face a rising star in the Republican Party whose name was floated as a vice presidential candidate last summer.
“I think it would be a tough race,” Knotts said. Burr “is popular in North Carolina, and he is popular in Washington.”
If Burr wins re-election, he will be the first incumbent to hold the seat since Sam Ervin, who retired in 1974.
The political parties have swapped the seat every election since then. In 1980, Democrat Robert Morgan lost to Republican James Broyhill, who lost to Democrat Terry Sanford in 1986. Sanford got beat in 1992 by Republican Lauch Faircloth, who lost to Democrat John Edwards in 2004. Burr won the seat over Erskine Bowles in 2004 when Edwards ran for president.
One hundred per cent pro-life.
Bring him on.