Just found this interview with the Man Who Will Kick Chuck Taylor Out of Congress.
The battle for North Carolina’s 11th District seat is shaping up to be the most competitive of the state’s 13 House contests, in a year in which the state has no races for the Senate or governor.
Just overlook they fact that they seem to be oblivious to the action over in NC-8. Duh. Must not be able to chew gum and walk at the same time.
Republican incumbent Charles H. Taylor brings in eight terms of House experience and legislative clout as the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. But Democratic political rookie Heath Shuler brings in glamour as a former local high school football star who gained fame as quarterback for the University of Tennessee before a less successful pro career.
Shuler appears prepared to give Taylor a run for his money. The challenger lags only slightly behind in total fundraising: Shuler had $779,653 in total receipts to Taylor’s $960,974 as of April 12, the close of the candidates’ most recent reporting period. And Shuler had more money in the bank on that date, with $552,304 in cash on hand to $99,510 for Taylor.
Shuler initially settled and built a business career in Tennessee, but returned to the 11th District in 2003. He emphasizes that his family and civic ties to the area remained strong during his absence. “They’ve got to come up with something better than saying that I haven’t lived there very long,” he said, referring to critics of his decision to run here.
Democrats have recently touted their own polls show Shuler leading Taylor, describing them as evidence that voters will take out their frustrations with President Bush and the national GOP on Taylor. The incumbent’s camp has dismissed the poll results.
Sort of like the incumbent's camp has also dismissed the people of the 11th district.
Shuler spoke with CQPolitics.com reporter Victoria McGrane on June 2 about how he thinks the campaign is going and why he believes he can succeed where previous Democratic challengers have failed.
The following are excerpts from the interview.
CQ: How are things going?
Shuler: It’s going really well. We’re definitely going six days a week now, as fast as we can go. We raise money during the mornings, and in the afternoons we’re in the district meeting and listening to people. We’ve gained very good praise about the things that we’re doing, the things that we stand for.
CQ: What are the things that you stand for?
Shuler: So much of it is just being an honest person, a person of character and integrity. I think we see in Washington, though, that that’s not happening at the present time. So many people are letting special interest groups vote for them as opposed to voting how they feel would best improve the lives of the people of our district.
CQ: Do you feel that is particularly true of your opponent?
Shuler: When you say you’re going to vote no on CAFTA [Central American Free Trade Agreement] that means placing the vote and recognizing that vote went through and that your vote counted. And that didn’t happen. That issue alone was enough for me to say “We need honesty.”
There’s one issue that affects every single life, every single person and it’s jobs in our district. The furniture industry is one area that we’ve lost; we continue to lose in the textile industry here in the mountains. If it was not for our tourism industry it would be very, very difficult to make a living. Our children don’t have a lot of opportunity to move back here and have good, high-paying jobs. They have to go to Charlotte, Raleigh or Atlanta.
CQ: So you would have voted against CAFTA?
CQ: Why did you decide to run in this race, in this year?
Shuler: I don’t think it was any particular race or any particular year as much as when I moved back home [in 2003], I realized things had changed since I had grown up in the area — jobs being one of them, [and] the health care industry. Our seniors are having to make decisions based upon being able to afford their own medication. And someone needs to take a stance and tell you, “I’m here to help, and I want to do what’s right for the people.”
CQ: You mentioned some of them, but what are the specific issues you’re emphasizing in your campaign?
Shuler: Well, without question, jobs.
We’re in one of the poorest districts in the United States, and we need to provide good, affordable health care for our seniors and especially for our children.
We look at education. Without education, it’s very difficult to bring jobs back. The unfunded mandates placed on our state and school systems here is a perfect example. Because of the lack of funding they have taken the school nurses out the schools, or let one nurse provide for five and six schools, and now the teachers are having to administer insulin shots for children with juvenile diabetes. We need to make education a very top priority.
CQ: Do you have any specific policy areas you would tackle in the House if elected?
Shuler: Back to education, the administration is willing to sell our forest lands in order to be able to fund the rural education plan. This district which we live in, over 3,000 acres is on the dockets to be sold.
We’re blessed to live in a beautiful area and our tourism industry is very important to us. If we do not have our public lands, if we do not support our Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or the Nantahala National Forest, then we won’t have the tourism business. So it’s real important that we maintain that, and one of those things is to start funding that rural education project.
CQ: Is your campaign targeting any particular constituencies?
Shuler: This district — parts of it are diverse but most of it is a relatively moderate conservative district. People want to see you as the person. They want to look you in the eye, they want you to shake their hand.
Sometimes it’s not about the issues, it’s about you as a person. And it’s who is the person they can actually trust. That’s the thing that we’re going after. They see the lack of the trust and the things that are going on — going from the largest surpluses to the largest deficit is one example of it. There is no accountability in spending. ...
CQ: How are you doing in terms of fundraising? Is there a target you’re aiming for?
Shuler: It’s hard to come up with a goal: It’s just as much money you possibly can raise in a day. We take it day by day.
One thing that’s stayed steadfast is I don’t like it. I do not enjoy it. The thing that has been the most difficult is to call people up, introduce yourself to them and ask them for money. But we have been successful at doing it.
CQ: Congressman Taylor has faced Democratic challengers before and they haven’t been successful. What do you think sets you apart?
Shuler: I feel that I represent the people of the district. I grew up in a small town, my father was a mailman, people can relate to me. I have been actively involved in the community for many years. Name recognition certainly helps. I was in the schools or in their churches, in their civic organizations far before I ever thought about running for Congress. People know me, they know who I am as a person.
CQ: You are running against someone who has a lot of political experience, is a chairman of an appropriations [sub]committee, and a member of the majority party — at least for now. And you, in contrast, have no professional policy experience. Do you think that is a drawback for your campaign?
Shuler: I think it is the biggest advantage we have.
First and foremost, I have 34 years of telling the truth. And people are upset at the direction in which our country is going. If Taylor has been using the leadership role, than that leadership is going in the wrong direction.
Nice job, Heath. Very well done.