Heath Shuler

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Heath Shuler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Charles H. Taylor
Succeeded by Mark Meadows
Personal details
Born Joseph Heath Shuler
(1971-12-31) December 31, 1971 (age 45)
Bryson City, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Nikol Davis Shuler
Children Navy Shuler
Island Shuler
Residence Biltmore Forest, North Carolina
Alma mater University of Tennessee (B.A.)
Occupation Real estate investor, retired football player
Religion Southern Baptist[1]
Heath Shuler
No. 21,5
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1971-12-31) December 31, 1971 (age 45)
Place of birth: Bryson City, North Carolina
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 216 lb (98 kg)
Career information
High school: Bryson City (NC) Swain Co.
College: Tennessee
NFL Draft: 1994 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
TDINT: 15–33
Yards: 3,691
QB Rating: 54.3
Player stats at NFL.com

Joseph Heath Shuler (born December 31, 1971) is an American businessman, former NFL quarterback and former U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district from 2007 to 2013. He was a member of the Democratic Party and the Blue Dog Coalition.

During his years in Congress, Shuler was known for challenging the leadership of his party, which he believed had moved too far to the left.[citation needed] In 2010, he ran against Nancy Pelosi for the post of Minority Leader. He believed the challenge would add to his prominence as a leader of conservative and moderate Democrats. He was one of the leaders of the Blue Dog Democrats, whose numbers were severely reduced by Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections. This left him with a lower profile in the national media than he had previously enjoyed.

Shuler's congressional district covered the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina; the largest city in the district is Asheville, which has voted strongly Democratic, in part influenced by retirees from northern and midwestern areas. On February 2, 2012, after the Republican-dominated legislature had redrawn boundaries of the 10th and 11th congressional districts, removing half of Asheville and making the district more Republican in terms of voter history, Shuler announced his retirement from the House. He did not seek re-election to a fourth term.[2]

Early life, education, and early football career[edit]

Shuler was born in Bryson City, North Carolina, a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains near the Tennessee border. His father was a mail carrier and his mother a homemaker and volunteer with the Swain County Youth Association; he has a younger brother, Benjie.[3]

Shuler's athletic career began at Swain County High School. A standout quarterback who led his team to two state championships, he was named as the North Carolina High School Player of the Year. He attracted scout attention and accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Tennessee in 1990. He was one of the best QBs in Tennessee football history.

At Tennessee, Shuler gained national attention as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. He held nearly all Volunteer passing records by the end of his collegiate career; most were subsequently eclipsed by Peyton Manning. In 1993, Shuler came in second behind Charlie Ward in the vote for the Heisman Trophy.

Professional football career[edit]

Shuler was a first-round selection in the 1994 NFL Draft, taken by the Washington Redskins with the third overall pick. He held out of training camp until he received a 7-year, $19.25 million contract, most of the holdout being due to Shuler's agent and the Redskins general manager discussing the parameters of the contract. The Redskins had fallen on hard times since winning Super Bowl XXVI, and Shuler was considered the quarterback of the future. But, Shuler's poor play contributed to a quarterback controversy with fellow 1994 draft pick, seventh-rounder Gus Frerotte. Public and fan sentiment soon began to back Frerotte, especially after Shuler threw five interceptions in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. Shuler started 18 games in his first two years with the team and was benched in his third year, as Frerotte led the team.

After the 1996 season, Shuler was traded to the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round pick in the 1997 draft and a third-round pick in 1998. Shuler's statistics remained poor. He suffered a serious foot injury during the 1997 season in New Orleans and had two surgeries to try to correct it. Football statistics site Football Outsiders called Shuler "The least valuable quarterback of 1997." [4]

After being unable to take the field due to his foot injury in his second season in New Orleans, Shuler signed with the Oakland Raiders. After re-injuring his foot in training camp, he retired. As a professional, his career passer rating was a 54.3. In 2004 ESPN rated him the 17th biggest 'sports flop' of the past 25 years,[5] along with the 4th biggest NFL Draft bust.[6] NFL Network ranked Shuler as the ninth-biggest bust in NFL history.[7]

Real estate career[edit]

After retiring from the NFL, Shuler returned to the University of Tennessee and completed his degree in psychology. He became a real estate professional in Knoxville, Tennessee. His real estate company is one of the largest independent firms in East Tennessee. In 2003, Shuler moved to Biltmore Forest, North Carolina.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In July 2005, Shuler announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination to run against eight-term incumbent Republican Charles H. Taylor. North Carolina's 11th congressional district covered most of the Western North Carolina mountains where Shuler grew up.

When Shuler ran in 2006, he was a tough target for opponents. His ideals seemed to be in line with the traditionally conservative district and he did not have a legislative record for opponents to attack. His campaign points were based on supporting cultural “mountain values:” opposing abortion rights, same-sex marriage and gun control. Taylor, an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, campaigned on his ability to bring federal money to the district. In October, with polls showing Taylor trailing, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about spending earmarks sought by Taylor that benefited many of his business interests.[8] Taylor poured $2.5 million of his own money into his race, and spent $4.4 million overall, compared with Shuler’s $1.8 million.[9]

Shuler repeatedly attacked Taylor for failing to stand up for the 11th's interests. For example, he blasted Taylor for missing a vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which passed by only two votes. Shuler pointed out that, according to the House roll call, Taylor voted 11 times on the same day that CAFTA came up for a vote, suggesting he deliberately avoided the vote.[10] Taylor was one of two Republicans who did not vote on the bill, even though he had publicly opposed it in the past.[11]

Taylor, for his part, claimed that Shuler would be an extra vote for Democrat Nancy Pelosi, although Shuler was nearly as conservative on social issues as Taylor.[12]

In the November election, Shuler won with 54 percent of the vote to Taylor's 46 percent. He carried nine of the district's 15 counties, including several areas that had reliably supported Taylor over the years. He even carried Taylor's home county of Transylvania. Shuler was one of only two Democrats to defeat an incumbent in the South that year. His victory gave the Democrats a majority of the state's congressional delegation for the first time since the 1994 elections.

In 2009, a documentary film about the successful 2006 Democratic campaign to retake control of the House, HouseQuake, prominently featured then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel's efforts to recruit new candidates including Shuler. "Mr. Emanuel’s efforts to get him to run offer one of the most revealing moments in the film," including two weeks of frequent phone calls about the balancing of family and Congressional obligations. The film was directed and produced by Karen Elizabeth Price, daughter of Congressman David Price who represents North Carolina's 4th congressional district.[13]


In 2008, Shuler faced Carl Mumpower, a Republican Asheville city councilman, and Libertarian Keith Smith. Shuler won strongly with 62 percent of the vote. He easily carried all 15 counties in the district, including the traditionally Republican Henderson County.


In early 2009, Shuler was mentioned as a possible candidate to run against Republican Richard Burr for the United States Senate in the next year's elections.[14] He chose not to do so.[15] Shuler defeated Miller, retaining his House seat by a margin of 54% to 46%.[16]


Although Shuler represents a very conservative area of North Carolina, he has a lifetime ACU rating of 28.5.[17]

In July 2011, the Republican-dominated General Assembly significantly redrew the 11th. Most of heavily Democratic Asheville was drawn into the 10th. To make up for the population loss, a number of heavily Republican counties in the Foothills were moved to the 11th. The redistricting reduced the percentage of registered Democrats in the 11th from 43% to 36%. A Western Carolina University professor concluded that the new district was so heavily Republican that Shuler would need to "practically completely separate himself from the Democratic party" in order to carry the new district.[18] Over the course of 2011, several persons declared their candidacy for Shuler's seat or expressed interest in a possible run.[19][20]

On February 2, 2012, Shuler announced that he would not run for another term.



Shuler was a whip of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of moderate-to-conservative House Democrats.[21]

Earlier official photo of Shuler

A list of bills sponsored by Shuler in the 112th Congress includes H.R.3065, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act; H.R.2086, the Medical Debt Responsibility Act of 2011; H.R.2000, the SAVE Act of 2011: H.R. 1889, the Gas Tax Holiday Act; and H.R.1434, the International Child Protection Act of 2011.[22]

In 2011, Shuler led a group of House Democrats in pressuring the President to deal with the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. The group pushed for the lawsuit to be settled by the Department of Justice. The group sided with the claim made by AT&T that the merger would create much-needed jobs.[23]

In November 2011, Shuler took the lead in a bipartisan call calling for larger cuts of the U.S. deficit.[24]

In 2007, Shuler introduced proposed legislation co-sponsored with fellow North Carolina U.S. Congressman Walter Jones to require airlines to have sections of the aircraft where large movie screens would not be visible.[25]

Representative Shuler has also been a major supporter of the government of Sri Lanka in Congress.[26]

Reportedly owing to his success in real estate, Shuler was named chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship during the 110th and 111th Congresses.[27] He has also been a deputy-at-large Whip.[28]

Key votes during economic recession

Shuler voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 both times it came before the House.[29][30] He later joined seven other conservative House Democrats in voting against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an $819 billion economic stimulus bill proposed by President Barack Obama. Shuler also voted against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, or HR 3962, along with 38 other Democrats, despite voting yes on the Stupak amendment in the same bill, which prohibits federal funds to be used for abortions.[31][32] In January 2011, Shuler voted against repealing the law,[33] explaining that the repeal would be immoral.[34]

Cap and trade

Shuler voted in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act which would implement a cap and trade system aimed at controlling pollution.[35]


In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,[36] The bill contained an exception for "forcible rape," which opponents criticized as potentially excluding drug-facilitated rape, date rape, and other forms of rape.[37] The bill also allowed an exception for minors who are victims of incest.[36]


Shuler is a strong advocate of gun rights. On January 10, 2011, the Washington Post reported that “[i]n the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,” Shuler “intends to arm himself more frequently” and is “encouraging his staff members to apply for carry permits.” On January 29, 2011, a Doonesbury cartoon made fun of Shuler's plan to carry a gun.

LGBT issues

In April 2009, Shuler voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.[38]

Republican 2011 budget

In July 2011, Shuler was one of five Democrats to vote for the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act.[39]

Interest in leadership position

During his 2010 campaign, Shuler showed interest in taking the place of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, if Democrats maintained their majority. On November 4, after Republicans had won a majority of seats in the upcoming Congress, Shuler predicted Pelosi would no longer be a leader in the House. However, if Pelosi wanted to take the minority leader position, Shuler told Roll Call, he would run against her if there were no "viable candidate".[40]

On November 13, 2010, in a long New York Times article about Shuler, Campbell Robertson noted his use of a football analogy to describe the current situation of Congressional Democrats: “It’s no different than me as a quarterback,” he said. “I didn’t play very good. So what they’d do? They benched me.” Robertson noted that “Shuler has emerged as one of most prominent voices in the debate on the Democratic Party’s immediate future. He was among the first to call for Ms. Pelosi to step down from her leadership role in the new Congress and said he would run for minority leader himself if no alternative emerged (though he admitted that he would be an underdog).” According to Robertson, Shuler felt the Democratic leadership “has been too reflexively partisan” and called for “a more moderate approach.” [41]

Robertson observed that North Carolina “has long nurtured a strand of progressivism, particularly on issues like education, and a Sunday school brand of social conservatism — sometimes in the same candidate,” and that “North Carolina’s curious politics are on full display in Mr. Shuler’s district, which ... includes the heavily Democratic city of Asheville, home to yoga studios and holistic medicine centers, as well as staunchly conservative hamlets scattered throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains.”[41]

As expected, Pelosi did run for minority leader, and on November 14, Shuler told CNN he would run against her, though he doubted he would win.[42] Shuler lost to Pelosi 150-43 on November 17, but he was pleased that conservative Democrats showed they must be dealt with.[43] On the opening day of the 112th Congress, Shuler received 11 votes for Speaker of the House, which his political aide called "the most dissenting votes recorded in modern history for partisan defections during a vote for Speaker" [44] (Since 1925).[45]

In February 2011, Shuler said that "there has been no communication whatsoever” between the Blue Dog Democrats in Congress and Nancy Pelosi.[46] When Shuler was asked if he identified ideologically with Pelosi or Ronald Reagan more, he chose Reagan. When asked to choose between George W. Bush and Pelosi, he said "neither".[46]

Committee assignments[edit]

Post-political career[edit]

Shuler transitioned to a lobbying position with Duke Energy to direct its lobbying and government affairs in Washington, D.C., in 2013.[47][48]

Personal life[edit]

Shuler is married to Nikol Davis, with whom he has two children: a daughter, Island, and a son, Navy.[49] Shuler remains active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Shuler also serves as a volunteer assistant football coach for Christ School, a boarding and day school located in suburban Asheville. His son Navy also attends Christ School.[50]

In Washington, Shuler lived at the C Street House of the The Fellowship, a controversial organization which operates the property as a tax-exempt church and a residence for several congressmen and senators. The building became notorious during a series of political sex scandals in 2009, in which current or former residents John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Chip Pickering admitted to adulterous affairs, which their housemates knew of but did not publicize.[51] In September 2010, The New Yorker published a piece about the house, focusing on the connection with the a secretive religious organization called the Fellowship. Shuler has attended weekly prayer sessions sponsored by the group since his arrival in Washington. In reference to the secrecy, Shuler said "I’ve been here the whole time, and there’s talk about what the Fellowship is, but I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about. I honestly don’t know what it is."[51]

Electoral history[edit]

2006 Race for U.S. House of Representatives — North Carolina 11th District
2008 Race for U.S. House of Representatives - North Carolina 11th District
  • Heath Shuler (D) (inc.), 62%
  • Carl Mumpower (R), 36%
  • Keith Smith (LIB), 2%
2010 Race for U.S. House of Representatives - North Carolina 11th District
  • Heath Shuler (D) (inc.), 54%
  • Jeff Miller (R), 46%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (5 January 2011). "Ten Southern Baptists sworn in as new reps.". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Isenstadt, Alex; Haberkorm, Jennifer (2 February 2012). "Heath Shuler will not seek reelection or run for governor in 2012". The Politico. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Democrats for Values. Heath Shuler
  4. ^ "1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary". Football Outsiders. 2006-11-23. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  5. ^ "ESPN25: The 25 Biggest Sports Flops of 1979–2004". Sports.espn.go.com. Archived from the original on 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  6. ^ "ESPN.com's ranking of the top 50 busts in NFL draft history". Sports.espn.go.com. 2008-04-18. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  7. ^ "NFL Videos: Top 10 draft busts". Nfl.com. 2010-04-16. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  8. ^ "Seat in Congress Helps Mr. Taylor Help His Business". The Wall Street Journal. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "Rep. Heath Shuler (D)". National Review. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "Heath Shuler campaign press release on Taylor's missed CAFTA vote". Web.archive.org. 2006-11-13. Archived from the original on October 27, 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  11. ^ Joel Burgess, "Taylor explains absent nay vote" Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Times-News, July 29, 2005
  12. ^ Whitmire, Tim. "GOP Raises Specter of 'Speaker Pelosi' ". Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle, 2006-08-12.
  13. ^ Peter Baker, "Emanuel at the Epicenter: Then and Now", The New York Times, October 21, 2009. Retrieved Oct. 21, 2009.
  14. ^ "Heath Shuler mulls race for Senate seat". Blue Ridge Now. Retrieved 03-10-2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. ^ "Shuler won't seek NC Senate seat in 2010". Retrieved 03-10-2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)[dead link]
  16. ^ "Elections 2010: North Carolina". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved 11-03-2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  17. ^ "ACU Ratings". American Conservative Union. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  18. ^ "Shuler left with Republican-leaning district after new maps slice liberal Asheville out of WNC". Smoky Mountain News. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  19. ^ "Republican candidates pile on for the chance to take on Shuler". Smoky Mountain News. 30 November 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Heath Shuler to face new opposition". Politico. 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Barrett, Barbara; Bonner, Lynn; Curliss, J. Andrew (2010-11-07). "Shuler has an opening to challenge Pelosi". News & Observer. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  22. ^ "112th Congress Legislation". Open Secrets. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  23. ^ "House Democrats rally for AT&T, T-Mobile with letter to Obama". CNET. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  24. ^ "Shuler leads national call for much larger debt cuts". Smokey Mountain News. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Bill targets sex and violence in inflight movies - CNN.com". Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. 
  26. ^ "Shulers outreach goes all the way to Sri Lanka". Rollcall.com. 
  27. ^ "Shuler chairman of subcommittee". Hendersonville Times-News. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  28. ^ "Shuler chosen as deputy-at-large whip". Hendersonville Times-News. 13 January 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  29. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 674". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. September 29, 2008. 
  30. ^ Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Final Vote Results for Roll Call 681 October 3, 2008
  31. ^ "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 887". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  32. ^ "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 884". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  33. ^ . Projects.washingtonpost.com http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/112/house/1/votes/14/?hpid=artslot.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  34. ^ "Still voting 'no:' 2 'Blue Dogs' explain why they oppose repeal". McClatchy. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  35. ^ "Roll call vote on HR 2454". Clerk.house.gov. 
  36. ^ a b "Full text of House Resolution 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act". Govtrack.us. 2011-05-09. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  37. ^ "What is 'forcible rape' exactly?". The Washington Post. 
  38. ^ [1]. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  39. ^ Berman, Russell (19 July 2011). "Five Blue Dogs join GOP in vote for 'cut, cap and balance' bill". The Hill. Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  40. ^ "Shuler says he'll challenge Pelosi for minority leadership". Asheville Citizen-Times. 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  41. ^ a b Robertson, Campbell (13 November 2010). "After Party's Rout, a Blue Dog Won't Back Down". NY Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  42. ^ Motsinger, Carol (2010-11-15). "Heath Shuler: I'll challenge Nancy Pelosi if she continues to run for minority leader". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  43. ^ Boyle, John (2010-11-18). "Heath Shuler challenge to Nancy Pelosi falls short". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  44. ^ "News & Observer: Shuler falls short, way short". Projects.newsobserver.com. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  45. ^ "Container Detail Page". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  46. ^ a b Keylin, Daniel (7 February 2011). "Heath Shuler: 'No communication' between Blue Dogs and Nancy Pelosi". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  47. ^ "No Interest in Senate, Happy at Duke". 
  48. ^ "Duke Energy Taps Schuler". CBS News. Archived from the original on December 1, 2012. Retrieved Nov 27, 2012. 
  49. ^ "Heath Shuler". News Observer. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  50. ^ http://www.citizen-times.com/story/sports/high-school/hshuddle/2015/08/04/shuler-son-join-christ-school-football/31096283/
  51. ^ a b "Frat House for Jesus". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles H. Taylor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Mark Meadows