North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler - one of the highest-profile Blue Dog Democrats in the House - will not seek reelection in 2012.
"I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician," he 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."
Shuler, who was elected in 2006, unsuccessfully challenged Nancy Pelosi in 2010 to lead House Democrats in what he called an effort to give "the moderates a voice in this caucus." Schuler was a vocal critic of Pelosi in the wake of Democrats' losses in the midterm elections, suggesting she pushed an overly liberal agenda.
Shuler, a former National Football League quarterback, was expected to have a difficult re-election fight following redistricting in his home state. In 2010, Shuler won re-election by nine points in a bad year for Democrats despite the fact that his western North Carolina district leans Republican.
Schuler suggested in his statement he may run for governor.
"Last week I spent a lot of time at home with my family discussing the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina," he said. "This time of reflection and prayer gave us the opportunity to talk about the best course of action for us as a family moving forward. It was during this time that I reached the decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012."
Shuler's full statement is below.
This was not an easy decision. However, I am confident that it is the right decision. It is a decision I have weighed heavily over the past few months. I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician. I am ready to refocus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife Nikol and two young children.
I have experienced no greater honor than serving the people of North Carolina's 11th Congressional District over the past five years. I am proud of the work that my office has done to give Western North Carolina a voice in Congress and make life better for the people who entrusted me with the privilege of representing them in Washington. I am also proud of the work we have accomplished with the Blue Dog Coalition to put our country on a sound fiscal path and promote civility and common-sense solutions amid the divisive, highly-partisan political climate in Washington.
Though my time in Congress will come to an end after this year, my work to move our state and country forward will not. Reducing our $15 trillion national debt and crafting bipartisan solutions to the many problems facing our nation remain my highest priorities. Leaving Congress will give me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on these initiatives without the constant demands of a re-election campaign.
I am grateful for the many close friendships I have made with my colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. I thank the people of Western North Carolina for placing their faith and confidence in me as their elected representative. I thank my colleagues and mentors in Washington who have helped me along the way. Most of all, I want to thank Nikol, Navy, Island, my entire family, friends, supporters, and staff, without whom my career in Congress would not have been possible. May God bless you all and continue to bless Western North Carolina.