Updated: 4:50 p.m. | Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) will not run for re-election this year.
The moderate Blue Dog Democrat decided against a bid in a redrawn 11th district, which was made substantially more Republican than his current district during a GOP-led redistricting process.
“Last week I spent a lot of time at home with my family discussing the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina,” Shuler, who decided against the statewide race, said in a statement. “This time of reflection and prayer gave us the opportunity to talk about the best course of action for us as a family moving forward. It was during this time that I reached the decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.”
People who know Shuler well said concerns over balancing time with family and on the campaign trail have always weighed on him. “He has been pushed and pulled in a lot of ways to be there this long,” a source close to Shuler said. “But now that drive [to run] was lacking.”
The current frontrunners in the race for the Republican nomination in the 11th district are real estate investor Mark Meadows, businessman Ethan Wingfield and local District Attorney Jeff Hunt.
“Obviously this campaign has never just been about defeating Heath Shuler,” Meadows said in a short interview. “It’s been about returning this country and its government back to the people. I look forward to representing the great people of western North Carolina, if they give me such an honor.”
Minutes after the news about Shuler broke, Wingfield told Roll Call, “We need wholesale change in Washington, and this is one small step in bringing about that change.
“I am pleased to be in the top tier in this primary, and I am pleased that western North Carolina has a chance to send a solutions-oriented Congressman to Washington,” he added.
National Republicans wasted no time in expressing their glee at what is now virtually a given seat pickup. The redrawn district would have voted almost 60 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election.
“In throwing in the towel, Shuler provides Republicans with an opportunity not only to pick up the seat, but to ensure that North Carolina families have a Representative that truly represents their values,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said.