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Heath Shuler Latest in Long Line of Blue Dog Losses

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“The elections haven’t even been held yet,” the Georgia Blue Dog Democrat said. “We’ve got a strong recruiting class, and there are some very good prospects that probably will even up the numbers that we’re losing.”

Democrats have been bullish about their chances of winning at least 25 seats to win back the House majority, and that goal requires them to win in swing districts like those represented by Blue Dogs. As far as Shuler’s seat, redistricting saddled him with an overwhelmingly Republican district.

“It makes it a little bit more difficult to retain the seat,” Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we have had for some time, but we think there are several paths to the majority.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, a one-time Blue Dog member, denied that the party’s goal is any harder with Shuler and other fiscally conservative Democrats opting to leave Congress.

“When we laid out our strategic plan to win 25 seats, we took into consideration the hill would be a little higher in places like North Carolina for us and much higher in areas like Illinois, California and elsewhere” for Republicans, Israel said.

Israel said there would still be a place for Blue Dogs in the Democratic Caucus, despite their thinning ranks. In a statement, Ross, like Shuler a co-chairman of the group who is retiring this year, also vowed the coalition would live on.

“The Blue Dog Coalition will continue to follow his example of leadership and work hard to bring both parties together to solve the fiscal challenges that face this nation,” he said.

Shuler passed on running for governor in the Tar Heel State, and his name was floated as a potential athletic director candidate at the University of Tennessee, his alma mater and where he was the starting quarterback on the football team. Shuler said he told Democratic leaders today of his decision after weeks of consideration, during which some colleagues tried to talk him into staying.

“This is not a surprise to any of them,” he said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom Shuler unsuccessfully challenged for Democratic leader last year, said Shuler “has been a national leader for fiscal responsibility who has always maintained a laserlike focus on his constituents in western North Carolina.”

“Congressman Shuler will be missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “We wish him the best in his next steps.”

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