Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Rep. Heath Shuler, a conservative Democrat from North Carolina, said Wednesday that he would run against Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House if no other Democrat steps forward -- presuming, of course, that his party retains control of the House in the midterm elections.
His comments came in a WWNC radio debate with his Republican opponent, Jeff Miller, and were first reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times
During the debate, Shuler said, "If there is no viable alternative [to Pelosi], I will be running for speaker of the house."
Later, Miller pressed the congressman for details. "You're saying you would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker?" Miller said.
"If that's the alternative, I will be voting for myself," Shuler answered.
"If she's there, you wouldn't vote for her? You'd vote for yourself?" Miller clarified.
Shuler replied, "I don't know how I can be any clearer. I can do as good a job as anybody in the U.S. Congress, because I can actually bring people together."
Despite Shuler's best efforts, Pelosi has been a central theme of his campaign to defend his House seat. Miller, along with the NRCC, ran an ad against Shuler
tying him to Pelosi and accusing him of "giving the arsonist a book of matches." Shuler responded with his own commercial,
saying, "I'm not Nancy Pelosi."
Shuler, a former NFL quarterback who came to Congress in the Democratic wave of 2006, is one of several conservative members of the Democratic caucus who have distanced themselves from Pelosi in the last year and IS among the dozen or so who would not commit to backing Pelosi. He also voted against the health care reform bill and the Wall Street bailout legislation.
As election day nears, speculation is rampant about Pelosi's fate atop the Democratic caucus should her party lose the House or maintain a narrow edge over the Republicans. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is considered Pelosi's logical successor, but has said he will not mount a direct challenge
to the speaker. Shuler is the first Democrat to say he would challenge Pelosi directly.
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