North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler
said Sunday he would challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the leadership of the Democratic minority in the next Congress although he acknowledged that he does not have the votes to win.
"We've just come off the largest ... loss for the Democratic Party in almost a century," Shuler said on CNN's State of the Union. "And to be able to put Speaker Pelosi as minority leader is truly ... unacceptable for our party."
"If she doesn't step aside then ... I'm going to press forward," he said. "I can add and subtract pretty well. I don't have the numbers to be able to win, but I think it's a proven point for moderates and the Democrat Party that we have to be a big tent. We have to be all-inclusive. We have to invite everyone into the party."
Shuler, a second term congressman, is the whip for the conservative Blue Dog Democratic caucus who lost 24 of their 58 members
in the midterm elections. On issues where he cast votes, Shuler sided with the party 83.9 percent of the time, according to the Washington Post
, although he opposed the leadership on major items like the health care reform package.
Shuler said, "We've got to be able to recruit. We have to go into those moderate areas, those swing districts, and be able to get great recruits or get back those members of Congress that we lost, be able to have them on the ticket in 2012 to be able to win back the House. And I just don't see that path happening if we have her at the top of the leadership."
He said he had hoped Pelosi would step aside and yield the top leadership positions to the current Democratic majority leader, Steny Hoyer, and majority whip James Clyburn.
Shuler said the leadership under Pelosi had pushed legislation that was "so far to the left," that by the time lawmakers managed to push it back towards the center "it had been demonized by everyone involved and made it very difficult to be able to get a real message out clearly to the American people."
Appearing on the same show, Clyburn, who was elected from his South Carolina district in 1992, came to Pelosi's defense, saying, "We spent 12 years in the wilderness (after losing the House in 1994), four years ago we came into the majority. Who was leading the team then? Nancy Pelosi. Steny Hoyer was in second place, I was in third place. This is the team that brought us out of the wilderness and since it's Sunday morning, let me use a biblical stuff, 'into the land of milk and honey.' "
Pelosi has said she would keep both men in the leadership, with Hoyer as minority whip and Clyburn taking the newly created position of assistant leader, which would be third in the hierarchy.
Shuler was elected to Congress in 2006. Prior to that, he had been best known as the Washington Redskins' first round draft pick as quarterback in 1994. However, Shuler was not a success in the pros and ESPN rated him the fourth biggest draft bust
of all time.