ENG: Joseph Heath Shuler (born December 31, 1971) is a businessman, a former NFL quarterback, and the former U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 11th congressional district, serving from 2007 to 2013. The district covered the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina; the largest city in the district is Asheville. He was a member of the Democratic Party and of the Blue Dog Coalition.
During his years in Congress, Shuler made a name for himself by challenging the leadership of his party, which he believes has moved too far to the left. In 2010 he ran against Nancy Pelosi for the post of minority leader. He knew he would lose, but also knew he would gain prominence as a leader of conservative and moderate Democrats.
He is now one of the leaders of the Blue Dog Democrats, whose numbers were severely diminished in the 2010 election, and has had a lower profile in the national media than he had previously enjoyed.
The district covers the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina and the largest city in the district is Asheville. On February 2, 2012, after a new district map removed Asheville from the district, making it considerably more Republican, Shuler announced his retirement from the House, and did not seek re-election to a fourth term.
Early life, education, and early football career
Shuler was born in Bryson City, North Carolina, a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee border. His father was a mail carrier and his mother a homemaker and volunteer with the Swain County Youth Association; he has a younger brother, Benjie.
Shuler's athletic career began at Swain County High School. A standout quarterback who led his team to two state championships and was named the North Carolina High School Player of the Year, he drew plenty of scout attention and accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Tennessee in 1990.
At Tennessee, Shuler gained national attention as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. He held nearly all Volunteer passing records at the end of his career, although most of them have since been eclipsed by Peyton Manning.
In 1993, he came in second in the vote for the Heisman Trophy.
Professional football career
Shuler was a first-round selection in the 1994 NFL Draft, taken by the Washington Redskins with the third overall pick. ESPN rated him the 4th biggest NFL Draft bust of all time. He held out of training camp until he received a 7-year, $19.25 million contract. The Redskins had fallen on hard times since winning Super Bowl XXVI, and Shuler was looked on as the quarterback of the future. However, Shuler's poor play contributed to a quarterback controversy with fellow 1994 draft pick Gus Frerotte.
This was evident when Shuler threw five interceptions in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. Shuler started 18 games in his first two years with the team and was benched in his third year, as Frerotte went to the Pro Bowl.
After the 1996 season, Shuler was traded to the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round pick in the 1997 draft and a third-round pick in 1998. Shuler's statistics remained poor. He suffered a serious foot injury during the 1997 season in New Orleans and went through two surgeries. Football statistics site Football Outsiders called Shuler "The least valuable quarterback of 1997."
After being unable to take the field due to his foot injury in his second season in New Orleans, Shuler signed with the Oakland Raiders, where he re-injured his foot in training camp and retired.
As a pro, his career passer rating was a 54.3 and in 2004 ESPN rated him the 17th biggest 'sports flop' of the past 25 years. NFL Network ranked Shuler as the ninth-biggest bust in NFL history.
Real estate career
After retiring from the NFL, Shuler returned to the University of Tennessee and completed his education, graduating with a degree in psychology. He then became a real estate professional in Knoxville. His real estate company is one of the largest independent firms in East Tennessee. In 2003, Shuler moved to Waynesville, North Carolina, where he lives today.
While in Washington, DC, Shuler lives at the C Street Center facility of The Fellowship, a controversial organization which operates the property as a tax-exempt church and a residence for several congressmen and senators.
The building became notorious during a series of political sex scandals in 2009, in which current or former residents John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Chip Pickering admitted to adulterous affairs, which their housemates knew of but did not publicize.
U.S. House of Representatives - Elections - 2006
In July 2005, Shuler announced his intentions to seek the Democratic nomination to run against eight-term incumbent Republican Charles H. Taylor. The district covers most of the Western North Carolina mountains where Shuler grew up.
When Shuler ran in 2006, he was a tough target for opponents. His ideals seemed to be in line with the traditionally conservative district and he did not have a legislative record. His campaign points were based on “mountain values,” opposing abortion rights, same-sex marriage and gun control. Taylor, an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, campaigned on his ability to bring home federal money. In October, with polls showing Taylor trailing, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about spending earmarks sought by Taylor that benefited many of his business interests. Taylor poured $2.5 million of his own money into his race, and spent $4.4 million overall, compared with Shuler’s $1.8 million.
Shuler repeatedly attacked Taylor for not standing up more often for the 11th's interests. For example, he blasted Taylor for missing a vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which only passed by two votes. Shuler pointed out that according to the House roll call, Taylor voted 11 times on the same day CAFTA came up for a vote. Taylor was one of two Republicans who didn't vote on the bill, even though he'd strongly opposed it in the past. Taylor, for his part, claimed that Shuler would be an extra vote for Nancy Pelosi, even though Shuler is almost as conservative on social issues as Taylor.
In the November election, Shuler won with 54 percent of the vote to Taylor's 46 percent. He carried nine of the district's 15 counties, including several areas that had reliably supported Taylor over the years. He even carried Taylor's home county of Transylvania. Shuler was one of only two Democrats to defeat an incumbent in the South that year. His victory gave the Democrats a majority of the state's congressional delegation for the first time since the 1994 elections.
In 2009, a documentary film about the successful 2006 Democratic campaign to retake control of the House, HouseQuake, prominently featured then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel's efforts to recruit new candidates including Shuler. "Mr. Emanuel’s efforts to get him to run offer one of the most revealing moments in the film," including two weeks of frequent phone calls about the balancing of family and Congressional obligations. The film was directed and produced by Karen Elizabeth Price, daughter of Congressman David Price who represents the 4th District of North Carolina.
In 2008, Shuler faced Republican Asheville city councilman Carl Mumpower and Libertarian Keith Smith. Shuler was handily reelected with 62 percent of the vote. He easily carried all 15 counties in the district, including traditionally heavily Republican Henderson County.
In early 2009, he was mentioned as a possible candidate to run against Richard Burr for the United States Senate in the next year's elections. He chose not to do so. Shuler defeated Miller, retaining his House seat by a margin of 54% to 46%.
Although Shuler represents a very conservative area of North Carolina, he has a lifetime ACU rating of just 28.5.
In July 2011, Democrats were upset over the new Congressional district lines that removed part of Asheville from District 11. The area was traditionally very liberal, and the removal dropped the 11th District from 43% to 36% registered Democrats, creating difficulties for Shuler. A Western Carolina University professor said that Shuler would need to "practically completely separate himself from the Democratic party." Over the course of 2011, several figures declared their candidacy for Shuler's seat or expressed interest in a possible run.
On February 2, 2012, Shuler announced that he would not be running for another term.
Post political life
Schuler will be transitioning to a lobbying position with Duke Energy to direct its lobbying and government affairs in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
Shuler is married to Nikol Davis, with whom he has two children: a daughter, Island, and a son, Navy. Shuler remains active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In Washington, Shuler lives at the C Street House with several other Christian members of Congress. In September 2010, The New Yorker published a piece about the house, focusing on the connection with the a secretive religious organization called the Fellowship. Shuler has attended weekly prayer sessions sponsored by the group since his arrival in Washington. In reference to the secrecy, Shuler said "I’ve been here the whole time, and there’s talk about what the Fellowship is, but I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about. I honestly don’t know what it is."
January 14, 2013