WASHINGTON — Will U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina take on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a showdown for the role of top Democrat next year?
Shuler, of Waynesville, said in a debate in October - when he was defending his seat in his conservative mountain district - that he would not support Pelosi's re-election to her leadership post. He said then he would run himself before supporting her.
He echoed those remarks to The Associated Press, saying he thought that there were other contenders but that he would run if there were no "viable alternative."
Pelosi announced that despite losing control of the House, she'll run to be House minority leader for next term. No one else has announced a candidacy.
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Shuler repeated his pledge Thursday to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. National outlets are predicting a candidacy.
Shuler certainly offers an alternative. He is a conservative Democrat who supports gun ownership and opposes abortion rights. He voted against the health care overhaul and the stimulus bill. He is the whip for the Blue Dog caucus of conservative Democrats.
Shuler could find support in a fellow Blue Dog, Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton. McIntyre said in a statement last week that he wouldn't support Pelosi, saying the party needs a moderate to conservative leader. "It is time to move forward in a different direction," he said.