Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler of Asheville may have followed his conscience when he voted against the Congressional stimulus bill last week, but he may not have helped his prospects for a statewide race in 2010.
Shuler has been touted as a prospective challenger to Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina next year. A former pro-football player, he's got the name recognition and apparently the money. He had $940,000 in his campaign account at the end of the year, not much less than Burr.
But Shuler might have trouble in a primary.
He was one of only 11 Democrats to vote against the Obama-backed stimulus bill in the House, one of only seven to vote against the conference version the president is signing into law today.
Shuler is also an anti-abortion member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate-conservative Democrats. That plays well in his mountain district but could present problems in a primary, where most voters are more liberal. Attorney General Roy Cooper is also considering the race.
An aide says the Senate race wasn't on Shuler's mind when he cast his stimulus vote.
"It was made because he really felt the stimulus package put before the House was not the way to go," says spokesman Andrew Whalen.