Rep. Heath Shuler, though only 40 years old, has been on a lot of retirement watch lists since North Carolina's redistricting map came out, which left him holding the shortest straw of any of the state's Democrats (a revised, Asheville-less NC-11, which went 58 percent to 40 percent for John McCain ... compared with an old district of 52 percent McCain, 47 percent Obama). Now, if anyone would still be able to salvage that seat, it would be Shuler, whose status as one of the bluest of the Blue Dogs (you might remember his challenge to Nancy Pelosi's speakership following the 2010 elections) might actually serve him well for once, given his new district.
However, there had been definite signs he was looking for an exit, starting with his reported interest last summer in the University of Tennessee athletic director position (which he denied in July, saying he'd run for reelection in the 11th), and intensifying just in the last few days with his paltry fundraising report.
Today, we get confirmation, via Roll Call:
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) will not run for re-election this year, a source close to the Congressman told Roll Call.
Shuler had said a few days ago that he wasn't interested in running for the newly-vacant Democratic nomination in the North Carolina gubernatorial race (thanks to Bev Perdue's decision not to seek another term). So, potentially, he might be changing his mind about that ... or, more likely, he might be ready to move on from politics. We'll keep you posted as we learn more about his plans.
One thing we can be sure of: This further complicates Democratic efforts hold NC-11, which already would have been tough. Businessman Mark Meadows seems to have the inside track on the Republican nomination, at least based on his fundraising figures; other Republicans in the field include Henderson Co. DA Jeffrey Hunt, former Henderson Co. GOP chair Spence Campbell, opthalmologist Dan Eichenbaum, and businessman Ethan Wingfield. Asheville City Councilor Cecil Bothwell was also running a Democratic primary challenge to Shuler from the left, and may wind up as Dem standard bearer here.