Reporting from Washington—A rare breed just got rarer. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, one of the few remaining white Southern Democrats in the House, has announced he will retire rather than run in what was expected to his toughest race yet.
Shuler is a leader of the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, a shrinking coalition of moderates who were known for, among other things, causing headaches for Nancy Pelosi during her years as speaker.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up and former Washington Redskins quarterback was first elected to the House in the Democratic wave of 2006. But he was facing a much tougher electorate this year. The GOP-led state legislature has redrawn his district to cut out the hub of Democratic voters. He was expecting a fierce and uphill fight.
"I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician," Shuler said in a statement. "I am ready to refocus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife, Nikol, and two young children."
The congressman's fellow North Carolina Democrats also face tough elections in November, in part, thanks to the new district lines. Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell are counted among the most endangered in the House.
The state's Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, announced last week she would not seek a new term. Shuler had also ruled out running for that office this week.