Shuler’s Chief of Staff Hayden Rogers debating a run for office in 2012
Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC11) announced last week that he would not be seeking re-election in 2012. Shuler, assumed office on January 3, 2007 after defeating long-time Republican, Charles Taylor. Taylor had previously served in the seat for 16 years before Shuler won the seat.
While speculation surronding Congressman Shuler potential candidacy for Governor for the state of North Carolina after Bev Perdue announced she would not seek re-election, he was at his Waynesville home with his family making the decision to not only not run for Governor, but to also not seek another term in the U.S. House of Representatives. “Last week I spent a lot of time at home with my family discussing the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina,” said Congressman Shuler. “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.”
According Shuler, his choice not to seek another term in the U.S. House of Representatives was neither a hasty nor an easy decision to make. While still standing for the people of Western North Carolina, Shuler plans to take this opportunity to spend more time with his wife Nikol, and two children, Island and Navy. “This was not an easy decision. However, I am confident that it is the right decision. It is a decision I have weighed heavily over the past few months. I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician. I am ready to refocus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife Nikol and two young children,” said Shuler.
The Blue Dog Democrat noted that the hardest thing about calling it quits that he was faced with, was not knowing who would take his place. The redistricting lines drastically changed the 11th congressional district, which caused most of Asheville to be moved into the 10th district. Shuler’s district is now considered one of the most republican districts in North Carolina.
After his unanticipated announcement, Democrats found themselves scrambling to find a candidate to replace the Swain County native. With the filing deadline quickly approaching for the May primary, potential candidates have until February 29th to declare their attempt to fill Shuler’s void. Multiple Republican candidates are vying for a chance at office, but as of today, Cecil Bothwell is the only Democrat to announce his candidacy. “I just do not think the people of Western North Carolina will vote for a candidate like Cecil," said Shuler. “:He is not going to win. They are not going to back an atheist. It goes against all of our morals and values, and everything we believe in, it just is not going to happen.”
Shuler said that he is most thankful for having the opportunity to serve the people of Western North Carolina in Washington.“I have experienced no greater honor than serving the people of North Carolina's 11th Congressional District over the past five years. I am proud of the work that my office has done to give Western North Carolina a voice in Congress and make life better for the people who entrusted me with the privilege of representing them in Washington. I am also proud of the work we have accomplished with the Blue Dog Coalition to put our country on a sound fiscal path and promote civility and common-sense solutions amid the divisive, highly-partisan political climate in Washington,” Shuler noted.
One of Shuler’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure was being able to bring people together. On the local level, Shuler cited his involvement in the “Road to Nowhere” debate which has been separating families in Swain County for more than 65 years. “I was able to help the residents in Swain County come together despite conflicting ideas in order to reach a resolution,” said Shuler. “And in Washington I was able to lead the charge of the “Go Big” letter we sent to the Super Committee. It may have just been a letter, but it brought more than 100 members of Congress from all over the country together despite their political affiliations,” he continued. “I was able to help bring members of Congress together to work for the betterment of the country instead of the agenda of their respective party.”
Congressman Shuler also noted that he is thankful for the friendships and relationships he has had the opportunity to build throughout his stint in office. “I have been fortunate to meet so many people from both political parties and have been able to work with them to accomplish great things for the people in our district,” said Shuler. “For example, I do not think I have made a closer friend than Macon County’s Sheriff, Robbie Holland. I was able to get to know him while in office and we have become more than just acquaintances, we are great friends. We have been able to work on great things for the people of Macon County despite our political affiliations.”
Although he is officially announcing his retirement from Congress, Shuler plans to return to Western North Carolina and remain fighting for the people who voted him into office in any way that he can. “Though my time in Congress will come to an end after this year, my work to move our state and country forward will not. Reducing our $15 trillion national debt and crafting bipartisan solutions to the many problems facing our nation remain my highest priorities. Leaving Congress will give me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on these initiatives without the constant demands of a re-election campaign,” said Shuler. “I am grateful for the many close friendships I have made with my colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. I thank the people of Western North Carolina for placing their faith and confidence in me as their elected representative. I thank my colleagues and mentors in Washington who have helped me along the way. Most of all, I want to thank Nikol, Navy, Island, my entire family, friends, supporters, and staff, without whom my career in Congress would not have been possible. May God bless you all and continue to bless Western North Carolina,” he concluded.
According to Shuler, his retirement will give him the opportunity to spend more time with this children. “I will have more time to spend with them and watch them grow,” he said. “I don't want to miss another moment of their lives, they are growing so fast. I will have more time to coach my son in youth league sports and be more involved in their lives.”
The former Swain County football standout and Professional NFL player also plans to use his newly acquired free time helping football teams throughout Western North Carolina. “I have always enjoyed being able to visit different high schools and talking to football players. I try to get out and work with different quarterback as often as I can, and hopefully I will have more time to do that,” said Shuler. “Coach Brooks is always great about inviting me down to Franklin High School to talk to the players and I am definitely looking forward to having more time to spend there.”
Congressman Shuler said that just because he is not seeking re-election this year, does not necessarily mean an end to his political career. “If there is one thing I have learned, it is never say never,” said Shuler when asked about his future political plans. “When I was younger I said I wouldn't be apart of the media, and have since hosted a few television shows and radio spots. I said I would never coach, and I have since coached an arena football team and coached my son in youth sports. I also said I wouldn't ever be a politician, and well, I did that too, so maybe somewhere down the line I will return to politics.”
Shuler’s Chief of Staff considering a run
According to Shuler, shortly after he informed his staff that he would not be seeking re-election, his Chief of Staff, Hayden Rogers approached him and asked for Shuler’s advice. “Hayden came to me and asked what I thought about him possibly running for my seat,” said Shuler. “I was completely surprised and instantly excited. I knew that there was no better candidate that could pick up where I left off, and represent the people of Western North Carolina with the same morals and values as I have.”
A native of Graham County, Rogers grew up in Robbinsville and first met Shuler while playing football in high school. After Rogers graduated high school he attended Princeton University to play football, but was injured during his freshmen year. Rogers marries his wife, a Murphy native, in 2003. He currently commutes from his Murphy home, where he lives with his wife and two daughters, to Washington whenever he is working with Congressman Shuler.
“Hayden is highly considering running for the 11th District and if and when he makes his announcement, I will be the first to support him," said Shuler. “I can not think of a more qualified individual who is more intelligent or someone who has more integrity and is more of a family man than he is.”
Rogers is expected to make an announcement by the end of the week.