Updated: 10:43 a.m.After weeks of speculation about his 2010 plans, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) said Monday evening that he would pass on a challenge to Sen. Richard Burr (R) next year.“I was flattered to have been asked by so many people across North Carolina to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010,— Shuler said in a statement released by his office. “However with our nation facing the most difficult economic times in generations, I feel my efforts are better utilized focusing on solutions to these challenges rather than campaigning across the state. My focus is and will remain on representing the people of the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina.—The news comes two weeks after former state Treasurer Richard Moore (D) said he, too, would pass on a Senate race. Now, state Attorney General Roy Cooper is the best-known Democrat being touted for the contest.Republicans were clearly pleased by the news that Shuler won’t make a Senate run.“It’s difficult to see how this is not a setback for Senate Democrats, particularly as they’ve made clear they plan to target Sen. Burr,— National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said. “The reality, though, is that Sen. Burr has worked incredibly hard representing his constituents, returning home regularly and raising his profile in the state the last four years. As a result, Sen. Burr finds himself in a very strong position as he moves into this election cycle.—But Shuler’s decision should at least hearten House Democrats, who will not have to work so hard next year to defend his seat in a very conservative district.